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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Closer Look
Paulin is the master of close reading, and, as previous reviewers have mentioned, this book enables the reader to sit at Paulin's shoulder as he analyses a very particular selection of poems spanning the past thousand years. Whilst close reading, with its concentration on metre and rhythm, can be a dry pursuit, Paulin enlivens it immeasurably through his highly...
Published on 9 April 2008 by AHM Preston

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd
This is an idiosyncratic little book, less a primer than a space for Paulin to work out his own obsessions, and because there's no introduction, one is never fully aware of what he's trying to achieve. The book also feels uneven in its approach: while the attention paid to prosody and sonic effects in some poems becomes overly technical to the point of tedium, in other...
Published 15 months ago by Patricia Cade


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Closer Look, 9 April 2008
By 
AHM Preston "AHM Preston" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Paulin is the master of close reading, and, as previous reviewers have mentioned, this book enables the reader to sit at Paulin's shoulder as he analyses a very particular selection of poems spanning the past thousand years. Whilst close reading, with its concentration on metre and rhythm, can be a dry pursuit, Paulin enlivens it immeasurably through his highly subjective, confrontational and enlightening interpretations.
What comes through most strongly from a reading of this marvellous book is Paulin's love of the canon of clear, emotionally direct, muscular poetry. We move from Bunyan to John Clare to Hopkins (whose shadow hangs over much of Paulin's work) to Heaney and with each we are taught a whole new way of reading and enjoying the poems.
Spend time learning how to read again in Paulin's company - he brings a freshness and vigour to everything touched by his unique intellect.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive Poetry primer, 2 Feb 2008
By 
Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
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If you are a student of English literature, or a reader looking to sharpen their appreciation of an art form that seems to instil a special sort of panic in the average person, this book is a must.

Paulin is a controversial and outspoken academic with a high media profile, a unique presence on late night review programmes. Over the last thirty years his prolific output of poetry, criticism and drama has been a consistent presence in the British literary scene. He is a champion of the urgent and politicised reading of poetry, and it is no accident that his literary heroes are users of powerful, rugged and vital language such as Frost, Rossetti, Hopkins and Heaney.

The reading here are controversial and sometimes sensational. The effect of reading them cover to cover is cumulative, rather like engaging in a sequence of hard working tutorials with a teacher of the first rank. You will not agree with all of the critical points raised in the book, but they will send you back to the original texts with your preconceptions challenged and lazy interpretations routed. A fine book that is a bold shout about the nature of poetry as vital and life-affirming art.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly compelling, 22 July 2008
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Alison Hardy (Manchester) - See all my reviews
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These are utterly compelling and convincing analyses of an intriguing selection of poems. Almost exhausting in their relentless flow of ideas urging the reader deeper and deeper and on and on, I think this is a marvellous book and would love(but don't expect)more from Paulin who skilfully dissects each piece without diminishing its unique beauty and power. Wonderful - and repays rereading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd, 31 Dec 2012
This is an idiosyncratic little book, less a primer than a space for Paulin to work out his own obsessions, and because there's no introduction, one is never fully aware of what he's trying to achieve. The book also feels uneven in its approach: while the attention paid to prosody and sonic effects in some poems becomes overly technical to the point of tedium, in other critiques Paulin seems to leave the poem behind altogether - the piece on Herbert's great poem 'The Flower' turns into a discussion about Lawrence. He also manages to smuggle in his own agendas, for example, the ship in Auden's `Musee des Beaux Arts' becomes a means for him to take a swipe at Auden for deserting England in WWII, and the poem, indeed Auden's entire body of work, is written off as a `failure'. Strange.

While the historical awareness in these readings can be thought-provoking, the world Paulin is introducing his readers to is almost exclusively male, and since it regards itself as a 'primer' this is the book's most obvious flaw. Of the 39 poets discussed here, only two are women, so one can only assume that either Paulin doesn't read women poets or doesn't rate them. And for a critic so interested in the political, that whiffs of the old boys club.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary book, 16 Jan 2008
By 
Ben Sonnenberg (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This may be the only such selection of which one can say, "This is a necessary book." Most good anthologies offer the twin pleasures of discovery and quarrel: "I never knew that poem" and "Why wasn't this poem included?" But this is an anthology which instructs as well as it delights. It makes one exclaim, "How I wish he was my teacher!" All poets should live in hope of writing a poem worthy of Tom Paulin's vital attention. Ben Sonnenberg
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warmth and sharp insights, 1 Dec 2011
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Tom Paulin's book is an appreciative homage to many of the best (and best-loved) poems in English. He treats each piece of verse on its merits, shaping his critique to suit. However, there are approaches which are regularly used to provide insights which readers will especially appreciate. He places poems in their historical and political contexts with judicious skill, then takes us through the poem with a commentary that responds to nuances of meaning, structural highlights and, with especial subtlety, telling features of the 'shape of sound'.

I found his comments revitalised my interest in poems I have known since childhood and brought me fresh delights to savour and new interests to explore. 'The Secret Life of Poems' is a valuable book for the poetry lover. Some will want to read it through in one go, but I suggest you keep it to be dipped into at intervals, each 'dip' followed by the additional reading it will stimulate you to go looking for.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, 24 Nov 2011
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This is slightly hard work, if - like me - your are not familiar with some of the technical terms used to discuss poetry. But, it's well worth it. The prose is economical, to the point, and it is both insightful and provocative (in the positive sense of really making you think critically). It's made me appreciate and understand poetry in a way I just hadn't thought about prior to reading it. I like the way it makes the connection between poetry and ordinary everyday life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Arrived in time and the recipient is pleased with it., 4 Oct 2013
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Made an excellent present. Thank you. I chose to have it gift wrapped and my brother was very pleased with it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The secret life of Poems by Tom Paulin, 28 Oct 2012
By 
Gc Whitaker - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Life of Poems: A Poetry Primer (Kindle Edition)
This is written by a practising poet and academic. It is an intriguing mixture of startling poetic insights into techniques and hidden meanings - and pretentious rubbish. Unfortunately,the latter predominates. If you love poetry it will irritate you. If you don't, it will confirm all your darkest suspicions.

Graham Whitaker
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