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How to Read a Poem Hardcover – 12 Oct 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (12 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405151404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405151405
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 1.7 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,499,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Acclaimed literary scholar and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton is Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of English Literature at Notre Dame.

Terry Eagleton is the author of many books including The Idea of Culture (2000), Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (2002), the bestselling text Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983, 1996, 2008), Trouble with Strangers: A Study of Ethics (2009), and the forthcoming On Evil (2010).

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Review

"The wit he brings to the task of helping readers read poems will, for some readers (myself included), be a source of pleasure." ( Notes and Queries, June 2010)

Eagleton raises many interesting points   Choice

A how–to book with an agenda. Smart, witty and provocative ... How to Read a Poem challenges us not only to look again at poetic form, but also to bring aesthetics back into our discussions fo what makes a poem worth studying. We may not agree with Eagleton, but we would do well to accept his challenge." College Literature

"Illuminating." The Times

 

Review

From the first page, the reader of How to Read a Poem realises that this, at last, is a book which begins to answer Adrian Mitchell′s charge: ′Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people′. Eagleton introduces himself as ′a politically minded literary theorist′. The remarkable achievement of this book is to prove that such a theorist is the only person who can really show what poetry is for. By a brilliant and scrupulous series of readings – of Yeats and Frost and Auden and Dickinson – framed in a lively account of the function of criticism as perhaps only he could expound it, Eagleton shows how literary theory, seriously understood, is the ground of poetic understanding. This will be the indispensable apology for poetry in our time.   Bernard O′Donoghue, Wadham College, Oxford "With energy and wit, Eagleton proves once and for all that close readers and theoretical readers should be partners rather than enemies."  John Redmond, Liverpool University "...lucid and engaging...Eagleton′s book ′designed as an introduction to poetry for students and general readers′, is a breath of fresh air." Marjorie Perloff, TLS, Books of the Year

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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Silver Moon Sailor on 9 Feb. 2007
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and is very funny as well.His style is immensely readable and his arguments are absorbing but he seldom comes across as dogmatic or lofty. He seems like the kind of guy you would learn more from over a pint of guinness than in a lecture theatre. There are lots of poems in this book which is always a good sign. The author really illuminates them as he comments on them and I certainly do appreciate the work of Keats and Edward Thomas a whole lot more than before I read this book. Shame there is so much Yeats but I guess that is a personal thing.The only other down side to this book, which he points out himself at the beginning, is that it starts in the wrong place! The first part of the book is quite dense and academic and I was beginning to think I must be a bit dim but the second part is readily understandable and enjoyable. It is quite a slim volume and very succinct compared to any other academic books about poetry I have read. I am a layperson who never got beyond O level English but I was able to get a lot from this book to enhance my enjoyment of reading and writing poetry.
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By Edward Beach on 12 Jan. 2014
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A quick Amazon search for `how to read a poem' shows there's a good few books running with this title. My guess is each of them, in their own way, are tapping into the insecurity a poetry-noob inevitably feels when they open an invitingly slender volume only to discover a dismayingly incomprehensible rabble of words and phrases with seemingly little internal cohesion or general meaning.

Terry Eagleton has written a book aimed at the intelligent beginner. If you are someone who is aware of poetry but doesn't always get it, someone who wants to talk intelligently about the subject without having to get your hands dirty and actually write the stuff, and if you're as familiar with Marx as you are with Milton, then this is the cerebral introduction you might be looking for.

Eagleton gives some quick definitions of poetry and criticism on his terms, a swift hello to a little bit of theory, and then tries to show why being able to distinguish between the content, or meaning, of poetry and its form, or method, is an important part of understanding a poem in its own terms. He encourages you to allow each poem to stand for itself, separate from any external need for clarity of meaning, identifying such utilitarian concerns more with sales receipts and instruction manuals.

There's plenty of examples from different poets littered through the book, from Shakespeare to Stevie Smith, Christina Rossetti, Hilda Doolittle, etc, and what Eagleton does really well for me is to develop a believable and interesting narrative about each poem he uses. Even a poem as superficially simple as William Carlos Williams' 'This is Just to Say', has a distinct purpose behind it.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. A. Edwards on 27 May 2008
Format: Paperback
This book seems a sort of stepping stone for everyone who thinks that close reading is for the classroom, and that poetry analysed loses its beauty. As Eagleton shows, good poetry appears more beautiful when it is read carefully and sensitively, by a reader who has some prosodic apparatus for approaching a text. It makes a case for why we should learn to read poetry with an ear (and an eye) that is sensitive to poetic form, even if we don't have an essay to hand in at the end of the week, and gives us a demonstration of how to be sensitive to poetic form.

Eagleton starts his book with the idea that overemphasis on cultural theory has led to a decline in interest in the skill of reading sensitively and perceptively. I might be inclined to agree with him - extensive teaching of prosody and poetics etc is not regarded as being as important in academic circles as it was a few years ago. However, his point that an interest in cultural theory does not preclude an active interest in close reading and textual analysis is a fair one.
Eagleton sets out on a survey of the ideology and practicalities of poetry reading, with sections on 1) the function of criticism, 2) defining poetry, 3) ideas of the schools of formalism, 4) the relationship between form and content and 5) some of the issues involved with reading poetry (tone, mood, syntax, metre etc). The final section puts the theory into practice, and looks at four nature poems.

If the book is not extensive in terms of its covering the many aspects of poetry reading, neither is it limiting. At no point does Eagleton claim to give a exhaustive account of poetic techniques or the discipline of reading, rather the book functions as a demonstration of the benefit of informed close reading of poetry for pleasure or study. If you want a more extensive study of prosody, and poetics etc, then a dictionary of poetics like the 'New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics' would probably be more up your street.
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I looked at the preview before buying and liked how the contents of the book was laid out with areas/sub headings of interest.
It will be a while before I manage to read the whole book properly- but certainly a good find from the poetry appraisal shelf.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By the examiner on 25 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
A very enjoyable, persuasive and eye-opening book, which has changed the way I read poems for the better. While it's not a book for absolute beginners, neither is it for academics only. If you enjoy reading poetry but feel unsure how to pinpoint exactly what you like or dislike, this is the guide for you. Written in a witty, 'intelligently conversational' style, Eagleton covers all aspects of what is being said in a poem and the way in which it is being said, and reminds us to be alert to all technical aspects a poet can employ.

As a political literary theorist, Eagleton defends other theorists from claims they have made analysing poetry wilfully impenetrable, picking out useful insights for discussion - yes, even 'The Semiotics of Yury Lotman' - in the context of showing the general considerations all theorists and readers alike need to be aware of when reading poetry.

I would say if you want to know more about the basics of iambic pentameter or other types of feet and metre, then perhaps a book like Stephen Fry's 'The Ode less Travelled' is more suitable, or as a complementary guide.

Generally, I would have liked more examples - I presume the book was kept relatively short so as not to be too off-putting - but that said, I certainly felt the examples given were clear and illuminated well the point being made. Indispensable.
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