How to Read a Poem And Fall in Love with Poetry

Review :

Edward Hirsch once spoke at a Poetry Therapy conference in Washington DC - compassionately, brilliantly - and I made up my mind to add him to my favorite contemporary poets. This book confirms my in-person listening. I must have fifty bookmarks in my library copy here, there's wisdom on every page. First example, in writing about Walt Whitman's Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking "It is one sentence and twenty-two lines long. It carries me away," wrote Hirsch in chapter called 'Message in a Bottle.' Then he continues "The incantatory power of this (poem) is tremendous as the repetitions loosen the intellect for reverie." All this about an ocean wave. I am carried away with the beauty of both Whitman and Hirsch - as they both intended and that's just on page 22.

It's about time in my life to be reminded of all the poetry writing and appreciation classes I once took. Decades later, I know the players, always glad to savor them again at the Dodge Festival (no longer happening) or on Bill Moyer's Journal. Yet reading Hirsch's book is a complete course in itself. No lectures but digging deeply into the works and results of a poem. This book could be a delight to anyone who can still read American English. As opposed to alphabet words, which I admit serve their purposes on the go. Here are some more quotes to treasure:

"'Dramatize, dramatize!' Frost directed the poet, and Akhmatova takes the clue here in spades." p.126

Speaking of Auden and James Merrill's epic trilogy: "To bring forth figures to speak from the otherworld is inevitably to enter into the range and territory of the Divine Comedy" p.141

This book is a solace to writer's struggling to reinvent writing. Hirsch seems to say, you are not alone, your ancestors in literature are benedictions to you, should you turn and look their way.

Yeah, I loved this book. And now have to actually return it to the library after four renewals so will perforce, buy my own. For the Glossary, subtitled "The Pleasure of the Text" which is a quick course in literary machinations. For the world's poets, in "A Reading List and the Pleasure of the Catalog." For the Index which is a precis of the book plus page numbers. I am going to stop this praise and order two copies now.


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