How to Read a Poem
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Lucid, entertaining and full of insight, How To Read A Poem is designed to banish the intimidation that too often attends the subject of poetry, and in doing so to bring it into the personal possession of the students and the general reader.
- Offers a detailed examination of poetic form and its relation to content.
- Takes a wide range of poems from the Renaissance to the present day and submits them to brilliantly illuminating closes analysis.
- Discusses the work of major poets, including John Milton, Alexander Pope, John Keats, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, W.B. Yeats, Robert Frost, W.H.Auden, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, and many more.
- Includes a helpful glossary of poetic terms.
Ringo Starr, but to call them a poem implies that they must in principle be intelligible to someone else as well. Unless a poem was potentially intelligible to someone else, it would not be meaningful to 32 HTRC02.qxd 12/05/2006 12:31PM Page 33 What is Poetry? the poet either. You could write in a private language known only to yourself; but to code and decode your experience in this way, indeed to have the concepts of ‘code’ and ‘decode’ in the first place, you would already need a language
fertile and productive. It is true that there are kinds of imagery which do not involve visualisation. We speak, for example, of aural or tactile imagery. Yet the word remains more deceptive than illuminating. For some eighteenth-century critics, imagery referred to the power of poetry to make us ‘see’ objects, to feel as if we were in their actual presence; but this implied, oddly, that the function of poetic language was to efface itself before what it represented. Language makes things vividly
create the impression of real things more powerfully than the visual arts. When we gaze at a painting of a landscape, we know that what we are seeing is not the landscape itself, precisely because the painting is itself a visual object, one which distinguishes itself from what it depicts in the very act of being faithful to it. But when the medium of representation is not itself visual, as with poetry, this is not so obvious. The idea of the ‘image’, which first emerges in its modern sense in the
post-Romantics tend to regard this as a deficiency, but for Collins it would not have seemed so, nor need it seem so to us. He might well have considered it eccentric and indecorous to think up strikingly specific phrases which sought to capture the exact tints and surgings of the ocean. For the greatest English eighteenth-century critic, Samuel Johnson, this would be an idle distraction from the poet’s proper business of conveying general truths. It is a measure of the gulf between pre-Romantics
exact meaning. inscape: a term coined by Gerard Manley Hopkins to denote the essence or typical inner form of a phenomenon. metaphor: the use of language which is imaginatively but not literally appropriate (e.g. ‘nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands’), or the representation of a thing by another thing which resembles it. metonymy: the representation of a thing by another thing which is part of or associated with it, e.g. ‘crown’ for ‘monarchy’ or ‘turf ’ for horseracing. metre: a