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Poetry: A Very Short Introduction

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Poetry, arguably, has a greater range of conceptual meaning than perhaps any other term in English. At the most basic level everyone can recognize it--it is a kind of literature that uses special linguistic devices of organization and expression for aesthetic effect. However, far grander claims have been made for poetry than this -- such as Shelley's that the poets "are th Poetry, arguably, has a greater range of conceptual meaning than perhaps any other term in English. At the most basic level everyone can recognize it--it is a kind of literature that uses special linguistic devices of organization and expression for aesthetic effect. However, far grander claims have been made for poetry than this -- such as Shelley's that the poets "are the unacknowledged legislators of the world," and that poetry is "a higher truth." In this Very Short Introduction Bernard O'Donoghue provides a fascinating look at the many different forms of writing which have been called "poetry" -- from the Greeks to the present day. As well as questioning what poetry is, he asks what poetry is for, and considers contemporary debates on its value. Is there a universality to poetry? And does it have a duty of public utility and responsibility? ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


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Poetry, arguably, has a greater range of conceptual meaning than perhaps any other term in English. At the most basic level everyone can recognize it--it is a kind of literature that uses special linguistic devices of organization and expression for aesthetic effect. However, far grander claims have been made for poetry than this -- such as Shelley's that the poets "are th Poetry, arguably, has a greater range of conceptual meaning than perhaps any other term in English. At the most basic level everyone can recognize it--it is a kind of literature that uses special linguistic devices of organization and expression for aesthetic effect. However, far grander claims have been made for poetry than this -- such as Shelley's that the poets "are the unacknowledged legislators of the world," and that poetry is "a higher truth." In this Very Short Introduction Bernard O'Donoghue provides a fascinating look at the many different forms of writing which have been called "poetry" -- from the Greeks to the present day. As well as questioning what poetry is, he asks what poetry is for, and considers contemporary debates on its value. Is there a universality to poetry? And does it have a duty of public utility and responsibility? ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

30 review for Poetry: A Very Short Introduction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ali علی

    Rare bad book in this series

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Sell

    I eagerly opened Bernard O'Donoghue's book Poetry: A Very Short Introduction for the first time looking for an interesting and fruitful survey of the art of poetry. After finishing it, I was, well, kind of disappointed with this book. This isn't a fault of the book or necessary an issue with the writing style. In fact, while I thought the jump in difficulty from chapter two to chapter three was a bit much, O'Donoghue's writing style is clear and concise throughout the book. The problem is actual I eagerly opened Bernard O'Donoghue's book Poetry: A Very Short Introduction for the first time looking for an interesting and fruitful survey of the art of poetry. After finishing it, I was, well, kind of disappointed with this book. This isn't a fault of the book or necessary an issue with the writing style. In fact, while I thought the jump in difficulty from chapter two to chapter three was a bit much, O'Donoghue's writing style is clear and concise throughout the book. The problem is actually with the topic itself. Poetry is, to put it succinctly, an incredibly ambiguous art form, in regards to definition, form, and purpose. This left O'Donoghue precariously qualifying every debate on every aspect of poetry. I think he did a good job of doing that, yet this ambiguity leaves you wanting more answers. I guess the only thing left to do is to dive into the vast world of poetry itself. In that regard, this book did a good job. Ultimately, what most I got out of this book is that if someone asks you, "what is poetry?" you should respond, "yes".

  3. 4 out of 5

    Helbob

    I don’t know if this is a good book or not because, quite frankly, I didn’t understand a word of it. This is not a criticism of the book or it’s author, he is clearly an expert in his field. I just underestimated my ability to learn complex new stuff. Learning at my age has its limits. I think I understood more in the short introduction to Keynes! Still love poetry though. Still quite like writing it. Just, obviously don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Oh well.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mihai

    Way better and in a sense harder than expected. The reader must be quite acquainted with English poetry before reading it, as there is a continuous back-and-forth between different definitions of what poetry is, and the examples used required some familiarity. Highly enjoyable!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Anderson

    This was the second “A Very Short Introduction,” and more challenging than the VSI on Consciousness. I don’t think the book is poorly written, the author seems to really know poetry, its history, and devices, but the language and concepts presented may be harder for those looking to get into poetry, so my own complaint may be that I’m just not as well versed in this subject and its ideas. My first and biggest takeaway is that defining poetry isn’t possible. And while that may be frustrating for This was the second “A Very Short Introduction,” and more challenging than the VSI on Consciousness. I don’t think the book is poorly written, the author seems to really know poetry, its history, and devices, but the language and concepts presented may be harder for those looking to get into poetry, so my own complaint may be that I’m just not as well versed in this subject and its ideas. My first and biggest takeaway is that defining poetry isn’t possible. And while that may be frustrating for me, I also really like this about poetry and art. The book delves into this question, and many others, using quotes from famous poets, including a few non-Western poets, which they don’t all agree on what poetry is, how it should be used, and who should write it. I think these examples may be my favorite aspect of the book as it introduces you to new works, and writers. I do think it’s worth a read if you are interested in the subject, just be prepared for a steeper climb with this introduction. I do want to come back to this in a few years and see where I fall then.

  6. 4 out of 5

    লোচন

    কবিতার বিভিন্ন আন্দোলন, ভিন্ন ভিন্ন এরা সম্পর্কে জানার জন্য ঠিক আছে। চলে আরকি। মূল পাওনা হচ্ছে - মাঝেমধ্যে কিছু আলোচনা আসছে, যেমন কবিতা কেন লেখা হয়, উদ্দেশ্য কি - কোন দুনিয়াবি কারণ লাগে, নাকি পোয়েট্রি এগজিস্টস অনলি ফর দা সেক অফ পোয়েট্রি? আগে শুধু প্রমথ চৌধুরি আর বুদ্ধদেবের লজিক জানতাম, এখন আরো কিছু সূত্র পাইলাম। তারপর পাঠক আর কবির মাঝে বোঝাপড়ার সম্পর্ক তৈরি কেন জরুরি। হাইডেগার কেন বলছিলেন যে একমাত্র কবিতাই মনোভাবের পুরোপুরি সম্পূর্ণতা প্রকাশের জন্য উপযোগী - ইত্যাদি ইত্যাদি। সব মিলায়ে সময় ন কবিতার বিভিন্ন আন্দোলন, ভিন্ন ভিন্ন এরা সম্পর্কে জানার জন্য ঠিক আছে। চলে আরকি। মূল পাওনা হচ্ছে - মাঝেমধ্যে কিছু আলোচনা আসছে, যেমন কবিতা কেন লেখা হয়, উদ্দেশ্য কি - কোন দুনিয়াবি কারণ লাগে, নাকি পোয়েট্রি এগজিস্টস অনলি ফর দা সেক অফ পোয়েট্রি? আগে শুধু প্রমথ চৌধুরি আর বুদ্ধদেবের লজিক জানতাম, এখন আরো কিছু সূত্র পাইলাম। তারপর পাঠক আর কবির মাঝে বোঝাপড়ার সম্পর্ক তৈরি কেন জরুরি। হাইডেগার কেন বলছিলেন যে একমাত্র কবিতাই মনোভাবের পুরোপুরি সম্পূর্ণতা প্রকাশের জন্য উপযোগী - ইত্যাদি ইত্যাদি। সব মিলায়ে সময় নষ্ট হয় নাই পড়ে। ভালো বই।

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hank Hoeft

    This is an excellent discussion of what poetry is and what its importance is as a human endeavor. I am a high school English teacher and I took copious notes as I read this book, to use the next time I teach a unit of poetry to ninth graders.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason Ray Carney

    This wasn't my favorite VSI. I struggled with its chapter organization: it was scattered, eclectic, and distracted. I am on the lookout for undergraduate (or advanced undergraduate) introductory texts to broad literary topics. For that purpose, this would not work. It is centrifugal rather than centripetal in its approach to poetry. It stumbles the way a lot of academic "introductions" do: it hesitates to define its object, it deploys several caveats, and then it questions those caveats; by and This wasn't my favorite VSI. I struggled with its chapter organization: it was scattered, eclectic, and distracted. I am on the lookout for undergraduate (or advanced undergraduate) introductory texts to broad literary topics. For that purpose, this would not work. It is centrifugal rather than centripetal in its approach to poetry. It stumbles the way a lot of academic "introductions" do: it hesitates to define its object, it deploys several caveats, and then it questions those caveats; by and by, the topic (in this case, poetry) becomes everything and nothing. Far too often the writer performed their knowledge of literary critical history rather than--what I would have preferred--outlined a cohesive definition of poetry, dared a history of its evolution, and touched on some of its related theoretical enigmas. The problem may not be with the work itself but with the series: VSI's sometimes seem confused as regards their audience. If this was for a graduate seminar in literary studies or for a humanities scholar in a related field, it would be great. But the value it can offer to general readers, undergraduates specifically, seems doubtful. If you already love poetry and are versed in the history of literary criticism, you'll love this. If not, you might get frustrated with this.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Yxas

    This was an excellent read, although Western Poetry: A Very Short Introduction would've been a better title. O'Donoghue doesn't go into much detail on poetic devices or the linguistics of poetry here. There's thin treatment on metrical patterns, prosody etc, so I'll eventually pick up Fenton's Introduction or Williams' Toolkit to learn more about those aspects of poetry. This was an excellent read, although Western Poetry: A Very Short Introduction would've been a better title. O'Donoghue doesn't go into much detail on poetic devices or the linguistics of poetry here. There's thin treatment on metrical patterns, prosody etc, so I'll eventually pick up Fenton's Introduction or Williams' Toolkit to learn more about those aspects of poetry.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    The author is clear in the introduction that he's going to only write about what he knows about - which is noble. Unfortunately, what he knows about appears to be a very small subsection of poetry, which is mostly limited to old white people who have had plenty written about them already. The author mentions rap in a throwaway sentence, says that he won't really talk much about poetry written in languages he doesn't understand because it loses strength (which is true ... and it comes from a diff The author is clear in the introduction that he's going to only write about what he knows about - which is noble. Unfortunately, what he knows about appears to be a very small subsection of poetry, which is mostly limited to old white people who have had plenty written about them already. The author mentions rap in a throwaway sentence, says that he won't really talk much about poetry written in languages he doesn't understand because it loses strength (which is true ... and it comes from a different source than Eurocentricism normally does, but it feels pretty much like the same thing as Eurocentricism. Not a bad book, just a disappointing one.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kit

    Not the strongest VSI. Mostly concerned with defining poetry, which is not necessarily what I would want out of an introduction. This book is like introducing someone by explaining the etymology of their name and how their parents came up with it: "Hey Sharon, have you met Alexander? It comes from the Greek of course. His parents almost named him Johnathan!" The best chapter was the one focused on the unique features of English poetry. I particularly liked the comparison with Chinese, although I Not the strongest VSI. Mostly concerned with defining poetry, which is not necessarily what I would want out of an introduction. This book is like introducing someone by explaining the etymology of their name and how their parents came up with it: "Hey Sharon, have you met Alexander? It comes from the Greek of course. His parents almost named him Johnathan!" The best chapter was the one focused on the unique features of English poetry. I particularly liked the comparison with Chinese, although I could not for the life of me find the poem he cited by 'Wu Mei-yuan'

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Not sure this is as much of an introduction to poetry as it is a runaway train tour through every poet and poetic concept in the traditional Western canon. It's an interesting, useful book (especially for English lit. uni students) but if this was my first experience of poetry analysis I'd have run a mile after 3 pages. Not sure this is as much of an introduction to poetry as it is a runaway train tour through every poet and poetic concept in the traditional Western canon. It's an interesting, useful book (especially for English lit. uni students) but if this was my first experience of poetry analysis I'd have run a mile after 3 pages.

  13. 4 out of 5

    snakeling

    It was altogether too dense and too confusing for "a very short introduction". It was also 98% centered on English language poetry, which to be fair, the author warned us about in his introduction, but I think it would have been better to just make it an introduction to English-language poetry and ignore the tiny tidbits of Chinese and Ancient Greek. It was altogether too dense and too confusing for "a very short introduction". It was also 98% centered on English language poetry, which to be fair, the author warned us about in his introduction, but I think it would have been better to just make it an introduction to English-language poetry and ignore the tiny tidbits of Chinese and Ancient Greek.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laila

    Bits of interest here and there, but on the whole sadly boring.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Grau

    Not a big fan upon initial reading. Misses the vital role poetry plays in music, art, and love. Completely eurocentric, and misses ancient verse from The rest of the world.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jbondandrews

    Well one was tantilisied with the idea of looking at poets from other cultures and there was a lack of anything other than white men.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    For a "very short" introduction, fantastic. For a "very short" introduction, fantastic.

  18. 4 out of 5

    szymborskalyte

    What a fantastic introduction. Wow. It’s not best for the acquainted, but just perfect for the dilettante.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Soego Soego

  20. 4 out of 5

    Arooj Alvi

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ciaran Quirke

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joel

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emma Spyker

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

  25. 5 out of 5

    ErinBeth

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pascal DuBois

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abdulrahman

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chantal Marie D

  29. 5 out of 5

    Šári

  30. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Lung

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