6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Bluffer's Guide to Poetry (Bluffer's Guides) (Paperback)
I thought this was terrific. I had the good fortune to be sent a few of these Bluffer's Guides for review by the publisher: they are pocket-sized and only around 100 pages long and I have found them all amusing, informative and very enjoyable. This is one of the best. The Guides are, in fact, a bluff in themselves because although they purport to be a handbook for those who simply want to bluff their way, they use this as a cover for providing lots of very sound fact, written by people who really know and love their subject while being very witty about it and often scathing about the pretence which surrounds it.
This slim volume gives a really good basic guide to English poetry, and also to Scots, Welsh, American and Australian poets writing in English. The authors manage to be extremely witty and often laugh-out-loud funny about bad poetry and about the posing of many poets and "experts" while being interesting, respectful and insightful about some of the best poetry. To give a couple of examples of the style, they say that Fitzgerald begins his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with, "'Awake!...' as though the audience, or possibly the reader, is already asleep. (If you think it's impossible to read poetry and be asleep at the same time, you've either never taught English Literature, or you've been very lucky, or you've never read anything from the eighteenth century.)" A view with which I have a good deal of sympathy. Or, " Most of Byron's poetry is described by experts as 'Byronic', which shows how easy it is to be a poetry expert." On the other hand, they write of Byron himself, and others like Keats and Wilfred Owen with great respect (while still being very readable).
I am a bit of a museum-piece in that I actively read and enjoy poetry, but I still learned a good deal here - like the wonderful poem Beach Burial by the Australian Second World War poet Kenneth Slessor which I didn't know and is quoted in full in the book. (I strongly recommend that you google it if you don't know it - it's fantastic.) I laughed a lot, too, and warmly recommend this book to anyone with any interest in poetry: whether you're a novice wanting some basic facts and quotes (for bluffing or just for interest) or you're a seasoned old hand, there's a lot here to enjoy.