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52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem: or How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life: A Poem for Every Week of the Year [Paperback]

Ruth Padel
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

5 Feb 2004

British poetry is in a wonderful state at present. Never have so many poets been saying so many interesting things in such lively, up-to-date ways. Yet many people feel shut out or know little about poetry and have no idea where to begin. In this groundbreaking book, Ruth Padel takes fifty-two of the poems she discussed in her newspaper column - a year's worth - and suggests ways of reading them.

The poems are by a wide range of living poets, on experiences we all share - love, sex, death, nature, history, war - which show how reading a poem can enhance everyone's life as powerfully and as pleasurably as reading novels or watching a film.

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52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem: or How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life: A Poem for Every Week of the Year + The Poem and the Journey: 60 Poems for the Journey of Life
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (5 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099429152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099429159
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Ruth Padel combines two major gifts: she is both a distinguished poet and a quite exceptional reader of the poetry of others... The result is a book which opens doors, which bids us share with its author and the poems she has chosen a wealth of insight" (George Steiner)

"She argues away the idea that contemporary poetry is "difficult": all it needs is a little work and the rewards are great" (Sunday Times)

"A brilliant snapshot of contemporary poetry. Padel writes with incisive intelligence, particularly in her lively and provocative introduction on gender-related power in the poetry world and why poetry has "lost its audience" (Christina Patterson, Director of the Poetry Society Independent)

"She chooses her poems with impeccable taste, an anthologist of the very best contemporary poetry" (The Times)

"A great gift for any student or poetry virgin who wonders what all the excitement is about" (Glasgow Herald)

Book Description

The best modern poetry anthology-with-a-difference.

'Padel's clear and informed approach makes modern poetry completely accessible' The Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and helpful to the common reader 12 Jan 2003
Although I do buy some modern poetry much of the stuff that gets published seems to be written for a tiny clique, and few (other than Wendy Cope and Carol Anne Duffy) are as immediately accesible as Philip Larkin. The Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, never gets a poem printed without a ton of derision from hacks, which doesn't help those who'd like to find out if anyone new is as good as the poets we read at school and university.
Ruth Padel's collection, taken from a weekly newspaper column in the Independent on Sunday is therefore a real thrill, whether you're a student trying to find out how to approach modern poetry or an interested but bewildered reader. She puts modern poetry into a literary and historical context, with a light, witty touch, and explores 52 poems line by line, with a bit about each poet as introduction. Her own metaphors in doing so are sometimes as good as anything in the poem - I loved her description of Peter Redgrove's "playful love poem" to The Visible Baby "offering its own bright images and spell-like repetitions like a coloured mobile."
Though not, I imagine, includsive of all good modern poets this is a terrific way in.
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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is as good a place to start as any 21 July 2002
By A Customer
After 35 years since reading poetry for A levels I found it hard to get back into reading poetry, and modern poetry in particular. What were the "rules", what were the boundaries, what the hell was going on?
I found that this books interesting introductory essay, helpful and soothing (I wasn't as far off the mark as I thought I was).
However it was Ms Padel's analysis of the poems along with a brief biography of each poet that I found most helpful and easily applicable to other poems.
Most importantly, I found myself as a male, reading female poets with enjoyment and interest instead of my usual defensive, faint bewilderment.
Highly recommended for the nervous and bewildered.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable 16 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A most enjoyable collection, each poem analysed extensively by Ruth Padel as part of her series of poetry articles in The Independent newspaper. I found that my understanding of most of the poems here was enriched enormously by Ruth Padel's analysis, though the format did pall a little towards the end. Some poems I felt were slightly unworthy of such depth of discussion, but these were in the minority. In the main, the selection is marvellously eclectic, with a welcome emphasis on equity between women's and men's poetry.

In a fascinating introduction, Ruth Padel discusses issues of bias towards the poetry written by men. She also lays to rest the idea that women's poetry deals with the concrete, domestic inward life, while men bestride the public world - which receives more poetic acclaim. It is pitiable to realise such a defence is still required.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I must confess that I'm a little baffled by all the praise that has been heaped on this book. I have found it deeply annoying - in fact it's one of the most irritating books I have encountered for quite some time.

The ineptly written introduction falls among several stools. As an explanation of the techniques employed in poetry, it cuts too many corners and for a beginner contains too many unexplained specialist terms. As a potted history of poetry it omits many key developments, and as an introduction to contemporary verse, it misleadingly and infuriatingly equates progress in poetry with anti-Thatcherite and feminist thinking.

Some of the 52 poems are indisputably fine pieces, and it's good to see excellent examples of the work of U.A. Fanthorpe, Elaine Feinstein, Liz Lochhead, and Fleur Adcock. Seamus Heaney's well-known poem The Skunk is here, as is Thom Gunn's Still Life. But really good poems such as these speak for themselves, and don't require the hugely laborious dissection job that seems to be Ruth Padel's preferred line of approach. Very many of the poems in the collection are relatively unknown over-intricate pieces that would have been best left in obscurity. Indeed one is tempted to conclude that if a poem needs taking apart word by word and sound by sound before it makes sense, it shouldn't really have been written in the first place.

Each of the 52 poems is immediately followed by Ruth Padel's commentary-cum- analysis, and as one reads each poem, one is uncomfortably conscious of the earnest teacher impatiently lurking in the wings, piece of chalk in hand. The analyses, frequently impaired by rather sloppy English, are not always very convincing and one often winces as Padel forces the poem into her own preconception of the poet's intention.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bard Brain 18 July 2009
This book will be valuable for my U3A Poetry Reading group.
Few of us have any literary expertise or knowledge about how to appreciate a poem - we read aloud and enjoy poems which interest us: humour,emotional depth, beauty, quirkiness - but are not really able to critique usefully so the possibility of progress is limited.
Ruth Padel's book gives me the opportunity to introduce and read out a piece and then go over Ruth's critique and hand out copies for members to think about at home.
My reading of 52 Ways has greatly enhanced my understanding.
I did get borrow the book from the library beforehand so knew what I was getting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Here was I thinking that the art of poetry was ...
Here was I thinking that the art of poetry was dying! Clearly it's alive and well.
The format of the book - a poem a week - is also original and effective and the literary... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Milly Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely changed my life!
Fantastic. I spent the majority of my life thinking there were only 51 ways of looking at a poem.
Published 1 month ago by Durg
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to school
Ruth Padel is a poet in her own right and that is one of the main reasons why I asked my husband to buy this book for me. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Richard M. Seel
5.0 out of 5 stars Expansion and subtlety
I think this an intriguing, informed and accessible book/collection.
I love the presentation and style which gently and firmly guides the reader. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Jane monach, Sheffield
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in writing technically perfect poetry. It helps to produce a commentary for those doing writing poetry courses. Read more
Published on 17 April 2012 by Dr Alan Hearsum
1.0 out of 5 stars Covert Feminism
The book starts out with a great intro chapter to poetry, but gradually descends into a rant about male poems, their ventriloquising of women, and the 'rebarbative' (not an... Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2012 by Olly
4.0 out of 5 stars A great intro to modern poetry
I get the feeling that Ruth Padel is close to orgasmic every time the sonic make-up of a poem is in tune. And this is possibly the only slight turn off. Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2011 by x iLeon
2.0 out of 5 stars Good critique, terrible paper
I wish I had the time and/or energy to complain about this book to the publisher. The paper is so poor that I can barely read it. It feels horrible! Read more
Published on 6 Nov 2010 by Mrs. Elizabeth M. A. Bolton
5.0 out of 5 stars ruth padel is a genius
If you are interested in peotry and either already take an active interest and maybe would like to discover some new names and insights into the topic then this book would most... Read more
Published on 4 Nov 2010 by holly31-deadpoetsoiety
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry students must
If you are studying poetry this is a must. Not the simplist but certainly one of the most thorough analysis of contemporary poetry. Read more
Published on 5 Sep 2010 by Ann E
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