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Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry Hardcover – April 5, 2011
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“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)
“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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Helping the reading of poetry by the non-poets of the world (and to some academic poets this group is already a group of out-group losers) -- this is a worthy goal, a hard task. As he went through lines of poems as examples, I could see what he was trying to say, hear it in the words read aloud, understand the playing field.
This is a unique book, sort of a guide to a lost continent, and it is just charming. There were times I thought the author had a touch too much self-confidence, but some of the poems he brings to clarity require such. Just a good book.
I mention this in connection with David Orr's bright and lively, though unfortunately titled, new book, Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry. Orr writes a regular poetry column for the New York Times Book Review, a role that makes him de facto probably America's most influential critic of contemporary poetry (at least for the general reader, if not for academe). I wish I had had Orr's book at the time of the Sanford affair to buttress my contention that the sonnet form is flexible, not rigid, and there are lots of different ways to arrange 14 or so lines and still have a sonnet resulting from the arrangement. Orr talks about three different kinds of poetic form: metrical form, resemblance form, and mechanical form, and the mid point between metrical and mechanical (resemblance) is by far the most interesting of these.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Need to read it again. On first read, I felt angry -- I hope I missed his point, maybe I didn't get it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Elaine Edelman
David Orr writes with the good sense of humour one would expect with a great and entertaining english teacher. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Parker Jennings
Insightful, well written. A must for poetry writers, for perspective and craft.Published 16 months ago by Elaine McIntosh
Orr's guide is not really a guide to reading poems as such, although the chapter on Form does a bit of that. Read morePublished 20 months ago by David Anthony Sam
Good review of some of the current (eternal?) worries keeping poets awake at night. Humorous and pointie. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Catharine T. Clark Sayles
This is one of the best, and certainly the funniest, book on modern poetry I have read, and I have read most of them.Published on February 16, 2013 by Agnes Spiller