From the bestselling author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor comes this essential primer to reading poetry like a professor that unlocks the keys to enjoying works from Lord Byron to the Beatles.
No literary form is as admired and feared as poetry. Admired for its lengthy pedigree—a line of poets extending back to a time before recorded history—and a ubiquitous presence in virtually all cultures, poetry is also revered for its great beauty and the powerful emotions it evokes. But the form has also instilled trepidation in its many admirers mainly because of a lack of familiarity and knowledge.
Poetry demands more from readers—intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually—than other literary forms. Most of us started out loving poetry because it filled our beloved children's books from Dr. Seuss to Robert Louis Stevenson. Eventually, our reading shifted to prose and later when we encountered poetry again, we had no recent experience to make it feel familiar. But reading poetry doesn’t need to be so overwhelming. In an entertaining and engaging voice, Thomas C. Foster shows readers how to overcome their fear of poetry and learn to enjoy it once more.
From classic poets such as Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Edna St. Vincent Millay to later poets such as E.E. Cummings, Billy Collins, and Seamus Heaney, How to Read Poetry Like a Professor examines a wide array of poems and teaches readers:
- How to read a poem to understand its primary meaning.
- The different technical elements of poetry such as meter, diction, rhyme, line structures, length, order, regularity, and how to learn to see these elements as allies rather than adversaries.
- How to listen for a poem’s secondary meaning by paying attention to the echoes that the language of poetry summons up.
- How to hear the music in poems—and the poetry in songs!
With How to Read Poetry Like a Professor, readers can rediscover poetry and reap its many rewards.
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About the Author
Thomas C. Foster, author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor and Reading the Silver Screen, is professor emeritus of English at the University of Michigan, Flint, where he taught classes in contemporary fiction, drama, and poetry, as well as creative writing and freelance writing. He is also the author of several books on 20th-century British and Irish literature and poetry.
Table of Contents
What Is Poetry? 1
Introduction: A (Slightly) Alien Life-Form 3
1 The Sounds of Sense 10
2 Sounds Beyond Sense 21
Interlude: What the Heck Is It? 29
How Is Poetry? 35
3 Redeeming the Time 37
4 The Rhythm(s) of the Saints 49
5 The Long (or Short) Gray Line 62
6 Our Word Is Our Bond 72
7 Rhyme Thyme 83
8 Look Who's Talking 92
9 If It's Square, It's a Sonnet 101
10 A Haiku, a Rondeau, and a Villanelle Walk into a Bar 111
11 Shapes of Things to Come 126
Interlude: Is Verse Ever Really Free? 133
12 Images, Symbols, and Their Friends 138
13 Right Out Loud 147
14 Bards and Beatles 157
Why Is Poetry? 169
15 Wanted: A Few Good Martians 171
Conclusion: Supreme Fictions 181
Poems Cited 189
Critical Works for Reference 191