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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Poet laureate Robert Pinsky knows poetry is alive and well in America, but he also knows that for the inexperienced reader, it can be intimidating. And far too often, the language used to help us understand poetry makes it appear all the more alienating. In his new essential introductory guide to the genre, Pinsky seeks to simplify our approach to and experience of poetry in order to amplify our enjoyment and appreciation of it — through sound.
"Poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art," Pinsky declares in The Sounds of Poetry. "The medium of poetry is a human body: the column of air inside the chest, shaped into signifying sounds in the larynx and the mouth. In this sense, poetry is just as physical or bodily an art as dancing."
Writing plainly and specifically, for general readers as well as for poets, Pinsky explains in detail how the sounds of poetry embody the work of art that is "performed" in us when we read it aloud. As a poet, he is able to free poetry from a technical approach to reading, returning the elements of poetry to something akin to the experience of a poet writing it. In clear, informative chapters devoted to the sonic elements of poetry, Pinsky discusses essentials such as accent and duration, syntax and line, like and unlike sounds, blank verse and free verse. He illustrates these with examples form the work of some 50 poets, from Shakespeare, Milton, and Emily Dickinson to William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and Louise Glück. An ideal introductory volume, The Sounds of Poetryalsobelongs in the library of every poet and every student of poetry.