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


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Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry + 100 Best-Loved Poems (Dover Thrift Editions) + 101 Great American Poems (Dover Thrift Editions)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061673455
  • ASIN: B00A1AE4H4
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #914,136 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

Customer Reviews

This is not at all the book I expected, given its title and jacket blurb.
PhoenixFalls
Form and meter are briefly discussed, but an explanation of their appearance or lack thereof in modern poetry is missing.
B. J. Lewis
His affection shows and he steers well clear of sentimentality, cliché and jargon.
York Brun Luethje

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 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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26 of 31 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By York Brun Luethje on April 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
,Beautiful & Pointless' sets out to be a guide to modern poetry. By this David Orr doesn't seek to provide a more or less comprehensive overview of the field but rather an answer to the question why one should bother with modern poetry at all.

This appears to be a problem common among current (academic) art forms, such as avant-garde music, in that its audience consists mainly of practitioners and illuminati who sometimes appear to be quite happy on their enchanted isle, away from the rabble. Orr tries to counter this by avoiding the lecture mode and instead being an infectious and approachable enthusiast. Think the guy next to you in the bar, not the one on the lectern.

He divides his endeavour into the following sections:

1. Introduction
2. The Personal
3. The Political
4. Form
5. Ambition
6. The Fishbowl
7. Why bother?

In each chapter Orr shines a light on the subject from a different angle, providing various examples in nicely readable prose. His affection shows and he steers well clear of sentimentality, cliché and jargon.

The section `The Fishbowl' takes a look at the economics and institutional politics behind the American academic poetry business. Now, I am usually with Proust and his opinion in `Contre Sainte Beuve' that biographical details of an author should not be taken into account when judging the work but the chapter is interesting. It is also brave as it not only will stir up antagonism in the poetry world but in that it would also be easy for an uninitiated reader to gain an unfavourable view of the whole business. Orr is not a mindless cheerleader.

In the end David Orr tries to answer the question `Why bother'?
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