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Poetic Meter and Poetic Form Revised Edition
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One of the most important things Fussell addresses is how the form of a poem affects the meaning and impression of the total poem. For example, he notes how many poetic forms are inevitably coloured by their initial or most famous use. He says regarding Tennyson's In Memoriam stanza-form, that it "is now so closely associated with the sturdy, serviceable elegaic atmosphere of In Memoriam itself that...its uses now seem limited to occasions which either resemble or mock the original" (Ch 8 The English Stanzas).
Another chapter that poets will find helpful is Metrical Variations, in which Fussell examines how poets substitute variant feet to create particular effects. Or if your interest is in free verse, he devotes a chapter to examining the characteristics of successful free verse, including how line breaks create effects.
This is not a substitute for a general handbook of poetry, and assumes a minimal knowledge of poetic technique, meter, &c. But if you are serious about reading or writing poetry, I don't think you can afford to miss this book.
This densely packed tome is not for the uninitiated and definitely not absorbed in just one reading. On and off, over the last 20 years, I have come back to this book to refresh my memory and, usually, to astonish myself. The book's real strength, besides Professor Fussell's obvious command of his subject, and his ability to convey that command, is in the sprinkling of dozens of anecdotes by and about poets about other poets and poetry. Even at this late date in my life, I can't pretend to understand the entire book but what I do understand I admire and respect. "Poetic Meter and Poetic Form" is not recommended to anyone studying poetry; it is urgently required.
But if you have read any of Fussell's cultural criticism ("Class," for example), you know that he writes with verve and wit. And if you are familiar with his excellent treatment of WWI poetry, "The Great War and Modern Memory," you know he knows his poetry. So here, you get his informed, scholarly overview with some sharply barbed opinions along the way.
This is no picnic. It is graduate school stuff. It is practicing poet stuff. But if you are serious about poetic form--in trying to understand what you read or what you want to write--you owe it to yourself to have this text at your fingertips. He shows you how a poem works for him--syllable by syllable--so that you can better appreciate the choices a poet makes (especially if you are that poet).
Fussell pulls many examples from the 18th century (Pope, for example). I commend him for it. But for those who believe that poetry began with the Romantics, you may not have much appetite for Pope's "Essay on Man," for example. Your loss. Even so, anyone who reads or writes formal poetry will want to understand its practice across the centuries. And this book gives you that understanding in a few, packed pages.
But the writing is so elegant that you'll enjoy the study. After you've worked your way through this book, the way you read and write will be changed forever--for prose as well as poetry--because the best prose occasionally employs the poetic techniques that Fussell explains so well.
You'll read a phrase that seems particularly apt, you'll wonder why it works so well, and then it will occur to you: Why, that phrase is iambic until the last two syllables, which includes a trochaic substitution. And the trochee at the end conveys exactly the twist that the writer wanted to convey.
And when you're lucky, on a good day, you'll look at a sentence you just wrote, and you'll see the same forces at work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book has been written in extensively. Extremely high price for a paperback book in such poor condition.Published 6 months ago by LM_9000
I really liked the fact that the product was exactly in the shape that was described. I am a big fan of honesty, and the person I bought this from had that quality, I think. Read morePublished on January 15, 2014 by Harley Weaver
This is a must for anyone seeking to understand how poetic verse brings together the various elements of language to form beautiful, meaningful and memorable expressions of the... Read morePublished on October 20, 2013 by Laura V. Roberts
This is really a fantastic book for those of us who are interested in the art form and all that entails. Read morePublished on October 4, 2012 by withallduerespect
I used this book for my Literary Analysis class and it helps explain all different kinds of poetic forms. Read morePublished on May 6, 2011 by Joe
Fussell's command of formal verse is extensive and even if you're more inclined to free verse I highly recommend his book because it provides essential tools for becoming a more... Read morePublished on November 30, 2008 by J. Lobb
This book is wonderful. Fussell in opinionated and unafraid to display his own taste, but I find that a good thing (uncommon in academic writing in my experience). Read morePublished on September 4, 2007 by An Amazonian