- Paperback: 190 pages
- Publisher: McGraw-Hill; Revised edition (January 1, 1979)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0075536064
- ISBN-13: 978-0075536062
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Poetic Meter and Poetic Form Revised Edition
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From the Back Cover
The title of this book may suggest that it is designed as a latter-day Gradus ad Parnassum to teach aspiring writers to produce passable verses. It is not. It is intended to help aspiring readers deepen their sensitivity to the rhythmical and formal properties of poetry and thus heighten their pleasure and illumination as an appropriately skilled audience of an exacting art.
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That being said, Paul Fussel is somewhat of a poetic prude, as exemplified in his exclusion of a discussion on free verse (a huge literary movement that erupted in the 20th century, as I'm sure you know)until this edition; even so, the chapter on free-verse is skimpy and pretty much useless. Unfortunately, I would say it's not worth the paper it's printed on. However, this book has a lot of great ideas on poetry, and if you take it with some skepticism, it should be a wonderful companion to any lover of poetry (but check your library first).
This is a treasure for those of us who love poetry but lack formal training.
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.