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The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song [Paperback]

by Ellen Bryant Voigt
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 23, 2009 1555975313 978-1555975319 Original

With intelligence and precision, Ellen Bryant Voigt parses out the deft and alluring shape of poetic language in The Art of Syntax. Through brilliant readings of poems by Bishop, Frost, Kunitz, Lawrence, and others, Voigt examines the signature musical scoring writers deploy to orchestrate meaning. “This structure—this architecture—is the essential drama of the poem’s composition,” she argues. The Art of Syntax is an indispensable book on the writer’s craft by one of America’s best and most influential poets and teachers.


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The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song + The Art of Description: World into Word + The Art of the Poetic Line
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ellen Bryant Voigt is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976–2006, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Vermont.


Product Details

  • Series: Art of...
  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; Original edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975319
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
(9)
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary addition to any prosody bookshelf August 10, 2010
Format:Paperback
I've long been an admirer of Ellen Bryant Voigt's earlier collection of essays, The Flexible Lyric, and have been delighted to find The Art of Syntax to be just as engaging and challenging. This book has helped me to re-think some of my assumptions about prosody, in reading other poets' work and my own, and the glossary is an excellent quick resource. Strongly recommended for any writer or student who already has a good grasp of grammar and the elements of prosody, or for the beginner who is willing to take the time to learn new concepts in order to appreciate Voigt's discussions and analyses. All readers of poetry will be delighted by her scalpel-sharp parsing and prosodic analysis of poems by Frost, Larkin, Kunitz, and others.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Graywolf Press is a premier and consistent publisher of poetry and prose with distinctive and enduring literary qualities and values. Now they have newly published a title that will prove to be of immense and practical value to all aspiring writers regardless of the genre they are working in. "The Art Of Syntax: Rhythm Of Thought, Rhythm Of Song" by accomplished poet and essayist Ellen Bryant Voigt focuses upon the poetic language and examines signature musical scoring to reveal the basics and embellishments of the writer's craft as applied to fiction and non-fiction alike, but especially to the creation of verse. "The Art of Syntax" should be considered mandatory reading for any writer who wants to not only produce award-winning quality work, but to be able to interest whole new generations of readers in that work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful; inspiring; essential! June 3, 2013
By Rob S.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A helpful volume that illustrates clear, concise and valuable ways to improve your writing by considering the "musical" qualities of the work. I will be referring to this book often.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor organization, extremely basic January 22, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book—like the others I've read from this series—is a very basic treatment of the subject, with nothing I haven't read in half a dozen other books on craft. On top of that, its lack of structure (only divided into a few chapters, without any sub-sections) make it all but completely useless as a reference material.
It's only real use I can imagine would be as an introductory primer for those who don't have access to more experienced writers who could communicate the same information more effectively through fairly casual discussion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chunky Peanut Butter. August 23, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bear with me on the title here for a minute. If you spread chunky peanut butter on a piece of bread carefully enough the chunks will make some kind of pattern. If you used that pattern to make a roll for a player piano, it would play a tune. Much of what Ellen Bryant Voight talks about in this dynamic discussion of syntactical rhythms is, in fact, the chunks of syntax that the poet uses and how they are arranged in the poem and, to the extent she can, what effect that has on the rhythm of the poem as a whole.

She talks about large and small scale rhythms, about how the voice working with or against that pattern effects the "song" the poem "sings". In order to do this, however, she must, of need, become quite technical, dealing with right branching versus parallel sentences, with delayed predicates, interrupting and slowing phrases, as well as placement of the subject itself. Taking all this in requires careful reading and (at least for me) re-reading. It is best if consideration can be given to alternate possibilities and comparisons of other approaches. It takes a bit of work. Ms. Voight's discussion of the many and varied syntactical tunes sung by Donald Justice in his "For the Suicides" poem is, all by itself however, worth the price of admission and all the effort you can give it.

Applying what you learn here may be a challenge, which is, itself, a matter discussed by Ms. Voight in her section dealing with conscious intent of, versus intuitive reactions by, poets in making the syntactical choices they do. At minimum, this little book will allow a more complete understanding of what's going on in the poems you most love and even allow you to appreciate poems you did not before you read it.

Again, the 4 star rating, as with Mr.
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