How to Read a Poem 1st Edition

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1405151412
ISBN-10: 1405151412
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The wit he brings to the task of helping readers read poems will, for some readers (myself included), be a source of pleasure." (Notes and Queries, June 2010)

“From the first page, the reader of How to Read a Poem realises that this, at last, is a book which begins to answer Adrian Mitchell's charge: 'Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people'. Eagleton introduces himself as 'a politically minded literary theorist'. The remarkable achievement of this book is to prove that such a theorist is the only person who can really show what poetry is for. By a brilliant and scrupulous series of readings - of Yeats and Frost and Auden and Dickinson - framed in a lively account of the function of criticism as perhaps only he could expound it, Eagleton shows how literary theory, seriously understood, is the ground of poetic understanding. This will be the indispensable apology for poetry in our time.”
Bernard O'Donoghue, Wadham College, Oxford

"With energy and wit, Eagleton proves once and for all that close readers and theoretical readers should be partners rather than enemies." John Redmond, Liverpool University

"...lucid and engaging...Eagleton's book 'designed as an introduction to poetry for students and general readers', is a breath of fresh air." Marjorie Perloff, TLS, Books of the Year

“Eagleton raises many interesting points” Choice

“A how-to book with an agenda. Smart, witty and provocative ... How to Read a Poem challenges us not only to look again at poetic form, but also to bring aesthetics back into our discussions fo what makes a poem worth studying. We may not agree with Eagleton, but we would do well to accept his challenge."

College Literature

"Illuminating."
The Times

 

Review

“From the first page, the reader of How to Read a Poem realises that this, at last, is a book which begins to answer Adrian Mitchell's charge: 'Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people'. Eagleton introduces himself as 'a politically minded literary theorist'. The remarkable achievement of this book is to prove that such a theorist is the only person who can really show what poetry is for. By a brilliant and scrupulous series of readings - of Yeats and Frost and Auden and Dickinson - framed in a lively account of the function of criticism as perhaps only he could expound it, Eagleton shows how literary theory, seriously understood, is the ground of poetic understanding. This will be the indispensable apology for poetry in our time.” –Bernard O'Donoghue, Wadham College, Oxford

"With energy and wit, Eagleton proves once and for all that close readers and theoretical readers should be partners rather than enemies." –John Redmond, Liverpool University

"...lucid and engaging...Eagleton's book 'designed as an introduction to poetry for students and general readers', is a breath of fresh air." –Marjorie Perloff, TLS, Books of the Year
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (October 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405151412
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405151412
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. His numerous books include The Meaning of Life, How to Read a Poem, and After Theory.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Charlus on October 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
In mostly eschewing theoretic jargon, or by giving clear examples to explain the jargon used, Eagleton has written an excellent guide for the academic reader. I stipulate this qualification because the mythical Common Reader would probably be put off by the detailed explanation of such things as the theories of the Russian Formalists and their disciples that take up several chapters. While Eagleton remains a proud card-carrying Theorist (an academic species he feels has been grossly misunderstood), he does the heavy lifting for the reader so, with only a modicum of effort, his arguments can usually be easily followed.

All this would be beside the point unless he had some illuminating things to say about the structure of poetry and how to approach the critical reading of a poem. Happily he does, which makes this short volume repay any effort it takes to read.

Unlike Harold Bloom, he expects little on faith from the reader and makes the necessary effort to convince you of his points. And although his Marxist sentiments are frequently in evidence, he never becomes heavy-handed and uses his bias more for flavoring than the meal itself.

So like many critical guides, what your needs are going in will determine your satisfaction coming out. For the general reader, Stephen Fry's "The Ode Less Travelled" might be a better fit. For the serious student of literature, Mr. Eagleton's guide is a worthwhile investment.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By C. Federico Escobar on April 2, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eagleton writes well, no one denies that. And he's got some trenchant observations and good analytical skills. But his books do seem to pump out very familiar themes to an Eagleton reader, such as Marxist literary criticism and the Russian Formalists, with very little variations on those themes. And he seems to over-elaborate many sentences and many arguments, fiddling around with a single idea but expressing it in twenty different ways, one after another, swooning with uncertain effects at times. The book is at its most superfluous in the chapter on Russian formalists (chapter 3), which could be amputated painlessly. One could also lop off chapter 1 with little inconvenience, and weed off from Chapter 4 anything other than Eagleton's close readings. What would be left after doing all that is a superb work of applied literary criticism. And some readings ARE superb. He applies finely-tuned reading techniques to a number of poets, and the result is a thrilling encounter with multiple meanings, provocative interpretations, an array of techniques and effects working deftly together. In short, what studying literature is all about. Just for that, How to Read a Poem is worth it. And for brilliant phrases like this one: "In everyday life, talking about imaginary people as though they were real is known as psychosis; in universities, it is known as literary criticism" (p. 22).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brian McMahon on June 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Terry Eagleton believes that literary criticism - scrupulously close reading and sensitivity to questions of form - is a dying art and has written this book to revive it. The book can be broadly divided into an examination of the theory of the Russian Formalists, an exploration of the relationship between form and content and a practical explanation of the tools the poet uses in his art.

Eagleton's explanation of the Russian Formalists is a model of clarity. In eleven pages he manages to explain the the theory and practice of the school in a way that is interesting and comprehensible to the lay reader while respecting the complexity of the theory. He explains how information flows from deviation from the regular, how words in poems form parts of multiple systems, and how the interaction of those systems, in highlighting similarities and differences, draws the maximum meaning from the words used.

Eagleton then examines content (what a poem says) and form (how it says it). He demonstrates how the elegant form of Grey's 'Elegy in a Church Courtyard' works against its content - the dire situation portrayed, and how the sheer excellence of the form in Yeats' 'Coole Park and Ballylee' transcends the content, the lament for the loss of a society that can produce such excellence. He demonstrates how the form of Derek Mahon's 'Disused Shed in County Wexford' dominates the content, how the poet successfully invokes through form the horror and tragedy of the holocaust while his content uses the merely everyday, an abandoned shed in rural Ireland and mushrooms.

Eagleton then explores the tools of the poet, the sources of a poem's meaning. He outlines how the meaning of a poem is found in its tone, mood and pitch.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nora on October 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got this as a textbook for my undergraduate Poetry workshop. While it has plenty of information about poetry inside, Eagleton is incredibly hard to comprehend, especially for beginnings. As always, he is long-winded and makes things way more complicated then he needs to. If you have to get this book for school, be prepared to spend some extra time deciphered Eagleton's writings, especially if you are new to poetry.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By June on March 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
What a feast one finds here for the lover and budding lover of poetry. This fascinating and engaging book, complex but clear, is designed as an introduction to poetry for both students and interested readers, but is rather more than that. It begins with interesting discussions on the 'end of criticism,' 'politics and rhetoric,' the 'death of experience' and 'imagination.' From here, Eagleton dives into poetry's relations: to prose, morality, fiction, pragmatism and language. A look at the Formalists is followed by an extended discussion on meaning and form. Eagleton then provides some discussion of poetry in performance and two American examples of critical analysis before walking us through the reader's and analyst's magic land of measures for exploration and enjoyment - a poem's tone, mood, intensity, texture, ambiguity, rhyme, rythm and meter, imagery, syntax, grammar and punctuation. He ends the book with a separate section in which he discusses four nature poems. Overall, a wonderful book of a timeless quality, useful as a guide for both the reader and the writer. I found this book so helpful as a guide to modern poetry criticism and analysis.
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