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How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry (Harvest Book) [Paperback]

Edward Hirsch
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 April 2000 Harvest Book
According to Hirsch, poetry is not just a part of life - it is life, and expresses like no other art our most sublime emotions. In this book, he shows how to read a poem, covering verse by, among others, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda and Wordsworth.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Roundhouse Publishing Ltd; New edition edition (1 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156005662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156005661
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.3 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A lovely book, full of joy and wisdom."-The Baltimore Sun "Hirsch's contribution is significant, [grounded] in the obvious pleasure he has experienced through words. . . . Who could resist the wiles of this poetry-broker-a writer rapidly becoming the baby boomers' preeminent man of letters?"-Detroit Free Press "Laudable . . . The answer Hirsch gives to the question of how to read a poem is: Ecstatically."-The Boston Book Review

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Read these poems to yourself in the middle of the night. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is a remarkable book because of its content and because it became a best seller in America in a time when poetry is rarely in the headlines.
This book educates by explaining what poetry is. It helps to guide the way for someone wanting to get into poetry but who doesn't know where to start or whose poems to read.
It gives some fantastic examples of some of the best poetry around and discusses the circumstances of the poems creation and the effect that this can have on the reader. The book is divided into sections that show different types of poetry.
Giving advise on how to interpret poetry yet also describing poetry as endlessly interpretable it is more a poetical approach than analytical. Explaining how an ordinary person can fall in love with poetry using imagination and feeling.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  63 reviews
149 of 164 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars But... How to Read a Poem? 28 Sep 2004
By Seachranaiche - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Edward Hirsch has written a meticulous analysis of the art of poetry, imbued with an authentic love of the form. From page to page he dissects and interprets; his enthusiasm remains high throughout. Not just the poetry, but also the poets themselves are lavished with heroic praise, their craft transcending the mortal. Their words are golden strands of virtue more appropriately whispered into the ears of gods.

But, but...

For those of us uneducated in the art of poetry there is a much more basic level of understanding that has to be achieved first: Why no punctuation? Why do sentences break in mid-breath? How does one find the meter in a poem? How does one read poetry without the stops and starts from line to line? Perhaps we should have learned this in school, but we didn't, so we bought this book.

This is a good book, really, but it is not what its title suggests. It should rather be entitled "The Love of Poetry", or "Falling in Love With Poetry", or "Furthering Your Love of Poetry", or something else emotive. "How to Read a Poem" sounds mechanical, the basics, just what those uneducated among us get when we do a keyword search on how to read a poem.

Select another book in order to learn how to read a poem, then graduate to this one once you comprehend the basics.
92 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but... 29 Dec 1999
By jjo - Published on
I got this book because I'm a complete novice who would like to learn to enjoy poetry. The book certainly put me on the right track, as it was inspiring more than anything else.
My one gripe is that my biggest problem with poetry is that I simply don't understand much of it. Any time I pick up a poem, I will, sure as anything, hit a line or two (at least) I can't figure out, and then I lose interest in the poem. There is a skill to reading poetry and I don't have it yet. Hirsch at his best would pull a poem apart and explain his reading. However, many times he would quote a few lines and talk about how wonderful they were, without explaining what they meant to him, and I was clueless. It was fustrating to have a book that purports to explain poetry to novices assume I would understand something I didn't.
That said, I understood about 75% of the book, thought it beautifully written, and am now looking for other introductions to move me along the path.
70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to the pleasures of poetry 8 Aug 2000
By Buckeye - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A mentor of mine always used to say "There are two kinds of people in this world!" and he would then expand on whatever dichotomy was on his mind at the moment. He might well have said that there are those who "get" poetry, and those who don't. I have always been firmly in the latter camp, but perhaps am more recently moving toward the former. Though I still have quite a ways to go, this book really helped move me along. This is a very well-written introduction to the joys of reading poetry. Besides presenting the reader with examples of many different types and styles of poetry it's just very enjoyable to read this author's writing.
While my reaction to the poems in the book is not even on the same scale as the author's very visceral, emotional responses, I feel like I nevertheless grasped enough of his reaction to know what he was feeling, and what he was getting at in his description. But I'll admit that some of the poems I read over and over again trying to detect some of *his* response in *me*, and I rarely did. I think this has more to do with my naivete, and I sort of envied the author's obvious depth of feeling in response to these poems.
Anyway - it's a great read and if you're a lover of poetry or even just curious about it, I recommend this book highly.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Buying Twice 18 Jan 2001
By Judith A. Lanzinger - Published on
I was utterly charmed by this book, but unfortunately lost my copy half way through. I bought a second, determined to have it on hand to be a primary guide as I try to learn more about poetry. For those of us with "literal" minds, Hirsh's words offer plenty of reasons to persevere over what may at first seem to be imponderable communications. He emphasizes the excitement of puzzling out messages poets leave for us and the thrill of the feelings they elict in response. This is a very good book to have if you are growing into poetry or have wondered what all the fuss was about.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich and Chocolaty 24 Nov 1999
By Mr. Roderick W. White - Published on
I really enjoy reading Hirsch because he has a romantic love affair with poetry and his enthusiasm is infectious in the extreme.
This is an excellent introduction to what poetry is and what it can do. Hirsch focuses on the romantic/spiritual side to poetry, his favourite poets being Whitman and Emerson.
He does get a bit carried away with this at times and is best introducing new and obscure pots such as the modern Greek poet Cavafy.
It is not the sort of book you read over three days. I found myself reading very slowly, like eating a big rich chocolate dessert.
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