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12
4.4 out of 5 stars
The Poetry Handbook
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2011
This is an excellent book for those who want to know how poems work. It is primarily concerned with poetry's "nuts and bolts". And it handles that well. If you like Ruth Padel's "52 Poems" and "60 Poems", you will find a lot here to interest you.
When you have read it, it will remain a handy reference for terms used in poetry, for how to punctuate more or less anything, for information on layout and on lineation, for information on syntax, and so on - all in neat sections in the text, easy to find, clearly explained, and all necessary for the appreciation of poetry. The treatment of rhythm and rhyme is basic but good. On criticism and theory the book is a little light, limiting itself to three fairly short chapters, "History", "Biography", and "Gender".
I realise that a single book, even one called "The Poetry Handbook", will not be able to cover everything in depth. For this reason I would recommend that someone new to the study of poetry read alongside it another book to get a fuller picture, something like "Beginning Theory" by Peter Barry or even the "Very Short Introduction to Literary Theory" by Jonathan Culler.
This is not to put down this book at all. I still rate this book at four stars for what it achieves, because it does that very well; and its associated website should remain as useful as the printed text.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2009
While this book is undeniably comprehensive, it is over-written and the author's voice is very intrusive and off-putting. The sub-chapters are not broken down into easy-to-use sections (I wanted to find out more about free verse and was left wading through pages of indulgent waffle); and for a book which claims to have been written as a 'crib' for students, I won't be using it as a reference book in future with any relish.

For beginners to intermediates, I would recommend Stephen Fry's excellent, witty 'The Ode less Travelled' which is much more accessible and enjoyable to read, and makes writing your own poetry pleasantly challenging. It's also much cheaper.

Terry Eagleton's 'How to read a Poem' is aimed at a similar, academic market to 'The Poetry Handbook' and I found that book far preferable and more persuasive, although admittedly not as thorough.

Overall, I was very disappointed with this book, particularly as I'd come to expect more from Oxford. If you have to read it, then good luck: if you don't, shop around first.
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on 7 August 2015
This book is quite frankly indispensable. Every student reading poetry from any era at A-level or university should have this in their bookshelf. John Lennard is a poetry expert, and his expertise bleeds into every sentence of this very dense, but very rewarding book. Love this and wish I'd discovered it earlier.
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on 10 July 2015
Read the sample and felt I had already learnt enough to cover the cost of the book. Now I have it, is great.

iamb OVER oor ED. |ux|ux|
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on 12 July 2015
A serious guide to poetry, just need to make time to write for myself.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2014
Good for the college student with well structured and clear language used to explains poetry terms and form. Useful for the 17 year old it was bought for who is doing A level English Literature.
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46 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2006
The first edition of John Lennard's The Poetry Handbook (it was red) changed my whole approach to reading and writing, so that I wonder now whether I actually was reading at all before Lennard taught me how. Anybody who reads or writes would benefit from attending to The Poetry Handbook, especially if you don't much like poetry.
If you are a student of English, either at A level or at university, and you are not using The Poetry Handbook then you are not at the races. The candidates who have are athletes on stanozolol. Have a look round the exam room: Lennard's readers are the ones who have been coached in Practical Criticism and can perform; if you don't know this stuff then you are just … busking.
And if you love Poetry, Lennard will widen hugely the range of poems you can get into your bloodstream.
The book is poem in its own right. Elizabeth Bishop’s Sestina is tetrametric when most are pentametric and thus have more room for manoeuvre between the repeated endwords. Lennard calls this “a wider slalom”: once read, never forgotten.
This new edition (it’s blue) is porkier than its predecessor, which is great for the ordinary enthusiastic reader like me: it's got even more delicious ingredients, more poems, more ingenious readings that are none the less NAILED to the texts. So for the ordinary reader Blue Lennard is porkier in a good way. Buy Blue Lennard because you enjoyed Red Lennard.
For the teacher Blue Lennard is very obviously an improvement on what was already a good textbook: there are exercises at the end of each chapter and many more examples. For a teacher running a class it's a technically a much better sausage for being porkier.
But if you are a student and nobody seems to want to teach you actually to do practical criticism, then get hold of a Red Lennard second hand, read it, google the referenced poems and in a week you will be so much better at Practical Criticism that you'll never have to download a lousy essay again. Then buy tis second edition and read it for fun.
I suppose I think that for the student on their own, Blue Lennard may be porkier in a bad way, because it is double the size, even cleverer, and even more confidently witty than Red Lennard, so maybe not so useful in an emergency. Red Lennard was a speed boat disguised as a life raft; blue Lennard is an aircraft carrier which will improve the teaching of practical criticism wherever it is deployed, and I suspect will simply redefine what can be expected of the students if they are properly taught. Blue Lennard will be hegemonic and will be a goldmine for the OUP and John Lennard.
Inside Blue Lennard, the spine of a thin man wildly signalling inside fat man, the speedboat inside the life raft that has been eaten by the aircraft carrier, is the original core of Red Lennard, an analysis of Derek Walcott’s Nearing Forty, tied to each chapter of the text. This is a detective story that let’s you follow the younger Lennard make a series of fascinating discoveries with his humane but forensic approaches: Cracker. In making Blue Lennard hegemonic, this fascinating detective work (every word of which remains in Blue Lennard but no longer as a spine) gets lost. Red Lennard said to the engaged reader: “read this forensic manual and you will be able to have adventures like I had with Nearing Forty”. Blue Lennard will have lots more (maybe ten times more, but the sky’s the limit: every student of English in the world should have The Poetry Handbook) but less-engaged readers who will become much better at reading and writing and much better at Practical Criticism. The Benthamite calculus is that Blue Lennard will do more good to a hugely greater number than did Red Lennard, but the average amount of good done per reader will be less. “You must read this book because it sets and exposits the standard of practical criticism that will be expected in this department of English”.
Red Lennard changed my life. It was a completely creative book that just looked like a manual. Blue Lennard will sell in far greater numbers because it is a much better textbook even than Red Lennard was, and it will by in that way have far more leverage and make many more students more articulate and alive through their reading. I just hope their teachers draw to their attention Lennard’s account of his inspiring adventures with Nearing Forty.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2014
The book arrived quickly, and was in good condition.
It explains the everyday workings of poetry, as well as the fine points.
I would recommend it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2014
Is useful for students studying Poetry
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2011
This book is written to answer all my questions. I am looking forward to using this book as a resource that will never go out of date. Other books I have bought to help me understand the technical aspects of poetry have been short of something I could not put my finger on, which was frustrating. In this book I am given answers to questions I could not put into words. So I believe the author to be a gifted and intuitive teacher. With questions to answer and exercises to complete I am given the opportunity to test my grasp of the teaching. There is no point in trying to fool myself.
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