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Poetic Meter and Poetic Form Revised Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0075536062
ISBN-10: 0075536064
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Editorial Reviews

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.

About the Author

Paul Fussell, critic, essayist, and cultural commentator, has recently won the H. L. Mencken Award of the Free Press Association. Among his books are "The Great War and Modem Memory, " which in 1976 won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award; "Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars; Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War;" and, most recently, "BAD or, The Dumbing of America." His essays have been collected in "The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations" and "Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays." He lives in Philadelphia, where he teaches English at the University of Pennsylvania.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; Revised edition (January 1, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0075536064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0075536062
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephanie L. Wilde on September 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
Fussell's foreword says that his book is for aspiring readers, not aspiring writers. But if you are an aspiring poet, I think Fussell has something to offer that is absent in most "handbooks".

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.
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Format: Paperback
When I was 21 and in my first year of graduate school, Paul Fussell's "Poetic Meter and Poetic Form" was one of the first text books assigned to me. When I bought the book and saw how slim it was, I snickered, "Grad school's gonna be a walk in the park!"

Yeah, RIGHT!

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.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a classic of prosodic exposition. (And understand, when I call a book a classic, I am not just lapsing into a cliche; it really IS a classic.) Fussell shows us the relations between form and content, between rhyme and rhythm on the one hand and the function of these formal devices to illuminate meaning on the other. The book also devotes a chapter to empirical observations on the properties of free verse, and it includes a concise bibliography of other works on prosody. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This is a lucid, engaging short book on the elements of poetry listed in the title: meter and form. Fussell does not provide the kind of encyclopedic information found in many poetry "handbooks"; what he does offer is a basic approach to scansion and analysis, and models for using these techniques in reading and writing about poems. This is a classic text, written with a great love of formal poetry, and referred to often by students and writers of poetry. The only thing that keeps my rating under 10 is that it is fairly out of date, and there are more recent texts that cover contemporary poets and verse forms with more rigor than Fussell. But for a readable treatment of the accentual-syllabic tradition and the first century or so of free verse, this book is a gem.
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Format: Paperback
The only thing that may stop you from buying this book is the price. It's a lot for a slim paperback, and there are other options available that will tell you about formal poetic forms and meter.

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.
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Format: Paperback
A handful of books I've read have imparted lessons that stuck with me for life. This is one of them. As others have said, this is a book to be studied rather than read.

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.
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