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Versification: A Short Introduction Paperback – March 2, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0870130960 ISBN-10: 087013096X
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Phillip McAuley was born in Autralia 1917 and died in his prime in 1976. At the University of Sydney he was the outstanding intellectual figure of his generation, distinguishing himself as a conversationalist, poet, jazz pianist, drinker, and bohemian. In 1956, he combined his interest in public affairs and art when he became the first editor of Quadrant, the Australian organ of the anti-communist Association for Cultural Freedom. His poetry continued to develop when he moved back into academia at the University of Tasmania.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 84 pages
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press (March 2, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087013096X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870130960
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,253,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on September 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you wish to understand poetic meter, this is the only source you need. He does devote a short final chapter to versification based on accent, syllable count, free verse and "classical" meters but the book as a whole focuses on metrical verse.
What makes this book a classic is its constant reference back to stress in normal speech - it suceeds in showing meterical verse as a natural outgrowth of what we do naturally. This dispels quickly any sense of the esoteric - poetry is of and for people in general not for a special literati.
After establishing meter in the normal sphere of speech, he then goes on to discuss how the abstract meterical patterns are actually applied and how variety is added to avoid the sing-song effect.
The only flaw in the book is that examples tend to be extracts rather than full poems, but that is appropriate for the intended use of the book "a short introduction" as claimed by its subtitle.
This is the only book on English versification you will ever need.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By O. Kagan on July 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Versification: A Short Introduction" provides a perfect start for the person looking to dabble with verse. The author gets straight to the point with clear, dense prose and plenty of examples.

McAuley's method of teaching versification is to build ways of articulating the sounds of poetry starting with metrical accent to stress to natural language reading, to various irregular forms, specific sounds and modern systems. A strength of the book is that McAuley does not shy away from noting the points of contention in versification, briefly noting both viewpoints before coming to his conclusion. Something to takeaway from the book is that prosody is not a perfect expression of language and is not meant to be. Generally, it must be accepted that verse will fit a regular pattern, and all irregularities will be accounted for, but that this is not always the case is made clear, though not always in a convincing manner.

The many examples in the book are taken primarily from canonical literature making me slightly weary - could the author not have taken some contemporary verse as examples? It would have been a breath of fresh air. Likewise, McAuley's look at modern versification techniques is lacking. His introduction to so-called "accentual verse" is especially lacking, but this should not bother those looking for a sturdy introduction to classical prosody.

Overall, "Versification: A Short Introduction" is a worthwhile primer for every poet, student or dabbler in the art. It's a short read filled with excellent information that could easily be returned to for reference. Though by no means comprehensive, it serves its purpose well.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Srinivas Chetty on November 4, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was prescribed as a prerequisite for an 'Introduction to Poetry' undergraduate course that I am auditing. It deals with the technical subjects of stress, meter, and variation that are key to the analysis and the writing of English poetry. Despite its brevity, it seems quite comprehensive, and ultimately does provide an understanding of the topic, and so succeeds in what it sets out to do.

However, it is presented in a rather dry and academic manner, and the author comes across as a stiff, humorless professor. At one point he gets carried away with the somewhat dubious issue of whether spondees(paired heavy accents) and pyrrhic feet (paired unstressed syllables) have a right to exist. He thinks they are artificial constructs and should be done away with and such gray-zone feet should be assigned as either iambs or trochees depending on the underlying rhythm. This seems to be his pet peeve, but I'm not sure in the end how changing the nomenclature enhances understanding in any material way.

'Rules for the Dance' by Mary Oliver discusses versification in a much more conversational and easy style, is more lively and engaging. Reading it first gave me the basic concepts to better understand this book. However, McAuley is more comprehensive and in particular discusses the difference between metrical accent and speech stress and the interplay between the two that creates much of the variety and 'tension' in English poetry.

Another issue I have with this book is the choice of rather arcane and ponderous lines for illustration, often from poems by Chaucer and other pre-Shakespearan poets to make his point. I mean, is it really necessary to demonstrate metrical variation with these lines-

What!
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