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Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry Hardcover – April 5, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061673455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061673450
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Beautiful and Pointless holds a mirror up to the poetry world itself. Orr starts from a brilliantly accurate characterization of what it feels like to read a poem, which should be up on the wall in every high school English classroom.” (Slate)

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

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

“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))

“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)

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)

“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)

“A short, lively guidebook. . . . With informal spirit and playful wit, Orr invites readers to disagree with him. . . . He comes across as an engaged, discriminating reader-critic concerned with examining rather than selling us a product.” (William H. Pritchard, Commonweal)

Review

“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

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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I maintain that even their fellow academicians don't care.
Diane Kistner
In BEAUTIFUL AND POINTLESS, poetry critic David Orr seeks to re-introduce the casual reader to modern poetry.
Dave Schwartz
I love reading poetry, writing it and basking in that pointless beauty.
Daniel B. Slocum

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 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 By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on 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 By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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