Poems, Poets, Poetry - The Organization of Action

Poems, Poets, Poetry by Helen Vendler is a great introduction to the world of poetry. It covers, step by step, a variety of styles of poetry, from a number of eras, written by poets of a collection of backgrounds. Note that she explicitly tackles only poetry written in English, as the challenges of translating poetry from a different language into English is an entirely separate (and quite challenging!) subject. So her focus is on the basics - how poetry is written in a given language, how it is interpreted, and what makes it "poetry". I do adore haiku and missed not having many Japanese classics in here, but I understand the reason why the focus was on single language.

Vendler chooses a nice range of poems to present her explanations, and goes into them in detail. She lays out ways to examine poetry, ways to ponder their meaning and rhythm and style. She takes Wordsworth's I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and diagrams it out, to show relationships. She discusses Yeats Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop, and examines why Yeats chose to wrote in the personae of an older woman.

The poems are sometimes hauntingly beautiful - and sometimes they're painfully direct. She covers Hayden's Night, Death, Mississippi which is written about a lynching from the point of view of the racist whites. These types of poems can be hard to read. But they help make us aware of issues, and cover the issue in a way which has strong impact.

The second half of the book is a library of poems she's chosen as worth reading and studying. One could say that many of these are available free on the internet - but it's also nice to have them all in one place, organized, and able to be read without batteries or plugs. Sometimes that paper in one's hand is the best option.

Well recommended both as a book that provides a wealth of information on what poetry is all about, and also as a collection of meaningful, intriguing poems.

I purchased this book with my own funds in order to take a college course.

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