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52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem: or How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life Paperback – 6 Jun 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition edition (6 Jun. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701173181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701173180
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,246,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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

‘I haven’t seen any description of where and who we are that’s as clear, balanced and inspiring.’ -- Jo Shapcott

‘Many of us... have learned to read unfamiliar poetry with greater understanding as a result of this weekly analysis.' -- An Independent on Sunday reader

Book Description

Based on Ruth Padel's popular 'Sunday Poem' column in the Independent on Sunday which aimed to make contemporary poetry accessible and less intimidating by, each week, showing how to go about reading a poem.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think this an intriguing, informed and accessible book/collection.
I love the presentation and style which gently and firmly guides the reader.
I admire hugely Ruth Padel's breadth and depth of knowledge and also the way she entwines this around the poems of others.
I took it on my recent holiday to China. Perhaps an incongruous choice, but somehow its expansion for me was in a different sphere from the expansion experienced in this immense country, through which I was travelling, and served to ground me in a different and complimentary way.
The format of the book makes it an confortable companion, yet its content challenges and stirs and teaches.
Because there is so much to learn and understand (but not overwhelmingly), I have already re-read parts, and will do so for some time.
As someone who grew up in Ireland I was struck by the contribution of Irish poets to recent and contemporary poetry. I knew something of this, but not much. This and the wonderful, erudite analysis of words and rhythms involved in the poems chosen, and the subtety conveyed, really engaged me.
It has made me more interested in and eager to understand even more about the development and importance of poetry.
I have already recommended it to my spouse, and two days ago to my ex-English teacher, now in her eighties, living in Belfast. I.m looking forward and have also bought "The poem and the Journey". I will be taking it along to our small reading group next week.
Maybe I'll get the chance to do a workshop with the author some day!
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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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