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Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry [Kindle Edition]

David Orr
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $9.78
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

"David Orr is no starry-eyed cheerleader for contemporary poetry; Orr’s a critic, and a good one. . . . Beautiful & Pointless is a clear-eyed, opinionated, and idiosyncratic guide to a vibrant but endangered art form, essential reading for anyone who loves poetry, and also for those of us who mostly just admire it from afar." —Tom Perrotta

Award-winning New York Times Book Review poetry columnist David Orr delivers an engaging, amusing, and stimulating tour through the world of poetry. With echoes of Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, Orr’s Beautiful & Pointless offers a smart and funny approach to appreciating an art form that many find difficult to embrace.

Editorial Reviews


“With Beautiful & Pointless, Orr mingles humor with analysis in a way that should provide fodder for novices and academics in equal measure.”


“David Orr is an authentic iconoclast. His criticism is exuberant and original. Dr. Johnson, my critical hero, urged us to clear our mind of cant. Orr has cleared his. He will enhance the perception of his readers. And he wins my heart by his love for Edward Lear.”—Harold Bloom

“David Orr reminds us that poetry is an ancient and living art, a robust American art, and not a commodity or vehicle for self-expression, social betterment, or career enhancement. He argues his case with passion, eloquence, erudition and good sense - and, as is his custom, not a little moxy.”—August Kleinzahler

'Beautiful & Pointless is a clear-eyed, opinionated, and idiosyncratic guide to a vibrant but endangered art form, essential reading for anyone who loves poetry, and also for those of us who mostly just admire it from afar.”—Tom Perrotta

“Equal parts friendly invitation for the uninitiated into the joys and possibilities of reading poetry for the uninitiated and opinionated cultural critique of the contemporary American poetry scene. . . . The book covers a heck of a lot without getting lost in the esoteric.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A passionate, nimble little book.”—David Kirby, The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

  • File Size: 305 KB
  • Print Length: 229 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0061673455
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004FEF6MO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,134 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For Poets and Poetry Readers February 19, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First off, BEAUTIFUL & POINTLESS is a fine title, and David Orr is a witty author. He brings a sense of brio and humor to his task, but he doesn't accomplish what he sets out to -- namely, to write a poetry book that Everyman can read and enjoy. Meaning? You're probably not going to get through this book, brief as it is, unless you a.) read poetry already, or b.) are a poet already.

Why? For one, Orr dives into such niche-specific subject matter as poetic forms, poetic "giants" (who deserves to be famous, who doesn't), and, most insider of all, poetic cliques of academia. I suppose you could argue that the last is important enough to get its own chapter, but most people would simply shrug and say, "Who cares -- do I really want to read about insider fighting among poets whose names I've never heard of and never will?" (Rhetorical question, of course.) Personally, I was not surprised that academia has affected (infected?) poetry-writing the way MFA programs have given us a "Writers' Workshop" style of novel, complete with scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours blurbs of adoration from one novelist to another (the teacher or a classmate, usually). It comes as no surprise that the same is true of university poetry departments. After all, from corporate drawing rooms to middle school cafeterias, this is how the world works. I would have preferred to learn more about modern poets who are possibly the next Elizabeth Bishops or Robert Frosts, about techniques in favor and out, about, finally, what Everyman actually reads and why.

A little of that drifts in toward the end in the final chapter, "why bother?", which I found the strongest.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Aaaaargh! I'm to review this book? March 23, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a delightful little book - you can get halfway through while waiting for your car to be repaired and count it as a useful afternoon. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that the book achieves it's goal. This is a book that you could easily see chapters as having been essays in the New York Times Book Review. You can see the NYT Book Reviews readers (including myself) saying "that is well written", "that is an interesting perspective", "I need to keep an eye out for reviews by Orr".

However, David Orr intends to expand the reader pool for modern poetry. To a large extent his non-technical introduction should achieve that end. His division of form into metrical, resemblance, and mechanical provides an excellent framework - especially giving the mechanical (think Oulipo)poetry a place to fit. However, the majority of the poets he selects are poets-of-academia (poets you are assigned to read, not discover by word of mouth). To add to the "insult" he makes reference to poets and poems without including them, leaving the reader to (a) look it up online or (b) feel they've missed the point. In his discussion of political poetry we meet Brooks, Auden and Ryan ... but not the names that come to my mind when considering political poetry - Ginzberg, Forche, Levertov ... Perhaps I expected too broad a definition of "Modern Poetry" but Orr did not meet my expectations.

However, if you read poetry journals or wish to read poetry journals or even wish to pretend to read poetry journals, Orr provides some excellent insights into modern poetry and it well worth your time.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious Play February 7, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
David Orr is a young man with the rare good fortune of combining both a vocation and an avocation. He is a practicing attorney and a graduate of Yale Law School. Orr is also a noted critic of modern poetry who writes regularly for the well-known New York Times and for the less well-known "Poetry" magazine. Orr's most recent article in the latter publication is titled "Poetry of and About", and it combines his vocation and avocation. The article examines a new anthology of poems loosely related to the law. Most readers will be unfamiliar with "Poetry". But Orr's new and first book, "Rare and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry" develops some of the themes of the article in a way that is intended to appeal to readers with little familiarity with the bewildering world of contemporary poetry.

Orr's book is designed to introduce contemporary poetry to the large majority of readers who have no acquaintance with it. He writes in a free, informal, and inviting style which serves to invite readers who, with substantial reason, will regard modern poetry as a forbidding, arcane art form. Orr also has a gift for a quirky, idiosyncratic turn of phrase. He introduces startling and seemingly unconnected figures of a sudden and out of the blue before turning to show how the introduction pertains to the matter at hand -- much in the way some poets may introduce a difficult metaphor. How does Orr want the reader to approach contemporary poems? Many readers might think that this involves a quasi-spiritual approach or a technical approach with close attention to meter, metaphor, and language. But Orr wants the reader to approach poetry in the manner of -- Belgium. It is a matter of travelling to a foreign country about which one initially knows a little but not much.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Best book on poetry I have read.
Published 6 days ago by DJ Klacs
5.0 out of 5 stars Very amusing and instructive book on modern poetry
This is one of the best, and certainly the funniest, book on modern poetry I have read, and I have read most of them.
Published 17 months ago by Gail A Braatelien
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Pointless
Agreat guide for aspiring poets and insights to modern poetry writers.
As a poet I read David Orr's column in the NYT and always
appreciate his take on Modern Poetry.
Published 19 months ago by Tony Puma
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting but not so much a guide as a preface
As Orr points out, before you go to Belgium, there are certain questions you want asked: where are the good restaurants and museums, what is its history, what are its relations... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Peter P. Parisi
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and/or Pointless
My take
From Beautiful & Pointless
Is that
Once the province of
And Spinsters
And Soldiers,
Is now the domain of cloistered... Read more
Published 23 months ago by j'Michael
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Read Poetry?
A professional poetry critic reflects on why we should bother with modern poetry. Surprisingly, the answer is not because it's "great," or it's "good for us. Read more
Published on June 30, 2012 by Oliver VIII
4.0 out of 5 stars Friendly introduction to the modern poetry world
This approachable and extremely readable book does not, as other reviews have stated, really explain poetry to the novice reader. Read more
Published on June 13, 2012 by jessbcuz
4.0 out of 5 stars Some literary criticism is more beautiful than the poems
I'd have given the book five stars but for the stale and standard selections of poet/poem examples for a book with such a provocative yet agreeable title. Read more
Published on June 10, 2012 by Papusza
2.0 out of 5 stars Kindle Edition badly formatted
I enjoyed David Orr's book very much, but like most poetry e-books, the Kindle format leaves alot to be desired. Read more
Published on April 13, 2012 by Ted Ficklen
4.0 out of 5 stars Offbeat, humorous defense of poetry
I'm not an avid poetry reader (though I love hearing Garrison Keilors "Writers Almanac" every morn on NPR), but I did enjoy this book. Read more
Published on March 18, 2012 by Edward Six
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