Sunday, May 5, 2019

Review: Why Poetry

Why Poetry Why Poetry by Matthew Zapruder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"I have a confession to make: I don’t really understand poetry." For over twenty-five years, I have heard this said, over and over in slightly different ways, but friends, family, colleagues, strangers I met in bars and at dinner parties, on planes -- so many people, practically everyone who found out I was a poet. Clearly, there is something about poetry that rattles and mystifies people, that makes them feel as if there is something wrong. Maybe the problem is with them as readers... or maybe the problem is with poetry itself. why don't poets just say what they mean? why do they make it so hard?

... How poetry creates the poetic state of mind in a reader is the central question of this book. It happens through the form of the poem, which guides the mind of the reader. It happens through leaps of association. And it happens as the poem explores and activates and plays with the nature of language itself.

This is a great introduction to poetry, but difficult to summarize. Zapruder starts by arguing that poetry isn't as esoteric as people believe. The first couple of chapters are about how poetry is different from other kinds of writing and about meaning in poetry. Some of the other chapters are essays on specific concepts (such as chapter 10 on metaphor) but much of this book examines specific poems.

There is a good interview with the author here:

a partial list of the poems discussed:
Moore, Marianne: Poetry
Keats, John: To Autumn
Auden, W.H.: Musee de Beaux Arts
Machado, Antonio: At a Friend's Burial
Neruda, Pablo: The Enigmas
Dickinson: I Felt A Funeral In My Brain/Hope is the Thing With Feathers

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