How to Read A Poem

How to Read A Poem

And Fall in Love With Poetry

Book - 1999
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"Read a poem to yourself in the middle of the night. Turn on a single lamp and read it while you're alone in an otherwise dark room or while someone sleeps next to you. Say it over to yourself in a place where silence reigns and the din of culture-the constant buzzing noise that surrounds you-has momentarily stopped. This poem has come from a great distance to find you." So begins this astonishing book by one of our leading poets and critics. In an unprecedented exploration of the genre, Hirsch writes about what poetry is, why it matters, and how we can open up our imaginations so that its message-which is of vital importance in day-to-day life-can reach us and make a difference. For Hirsch, poetry is not just a part of life, it is life, and expresses like no other art our most sublime emotions. In a marvelous reading of world poetry, including verse by such poets as Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda, William Wordsworth, Sylvia Plath, Charles Baudelaire, and many more, Hirsch discovers the meaning of their words and ideas and brings their sublime message home into our hearts. A masterful work by a master poet, this brilliant summation of poetry and human nature will speak to all readers who long to place poetry in their lives but don't know how to read it.
Publisher: New York : Harcourt Brace and Co., c1999.
ISBN: 9780151004195
Characteristics: xiii, 354 p. ;,24 cm.


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Jan 01, 2021

Highly recommended.
A book of greater depth than what I was expecting or wanting. I was looking for quick pointers and brief highlights, not the river’s ebb and flow of a lifetime filled with feelings and insights evoked by reading poetry. Thought I’d skip it, but by chance turned to Chapter 4 and found wonderful and riveting writing:
“I was initiated into the poetry of trance on a rainy Saturday afternoon in mid-October 1958…when I wandered down to the basement of our house to pick through some of my grandfather’s forgotten books. I was eight years old. I vaguely remembered that my grandfather had copied poems into the inside cover of his favorite volumes, and I had decided to try to find one. I opened a musty anthology of poetry to a section called “Night” and read a poem that immediately arrested me…”
He then includes three stanzas of Emily Bronte’s poem, “Spellbound,” and proceeds to tell of a highly personal experience, relating the poem to his internal feelings about his grandfather’s recent death.
"And then I remembered how I had stood by the side of my grandfather's grave when they lowered him into the ground. I threw a shovel of dirt onto the coffin, like the other men. Some kindness had passed out of the world, but I wouldn't move away, I would never give him up. The storm was coming right for me, but suddenly I had the words for what I had felt then. I was determined by what I could not resist. I said, 'I will not, cannot go.'" [the storm and the final quote are in reference the Bronte's poem.]

For anyone serious about poetry, studying poetry, or wants to seriously practice poetry, this book has a few most excellent features.
1) The 58-page Glossary includes terms, their origins, their definitions and historic meanings, full examples of the term, and referrals to related terms also in the glossary.
2) The 24-page Reading List is arranged by continent, then by country, then by author (alphabetically). It also includes publication information of three titles under the heading Collections of Poets Writing About Poetry, as well as five pages listing works on the Criticism of poetry.

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