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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.

58 review for Poetry: A Very Short Introduction

  1. 5 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 5 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!

  4. 5 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 4 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    For a "very short" introduction, fantastic.

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    Soego Soego

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    Arooj Alvi

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    Jacob Chapman

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    Rebecca Pearson

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    Tony Oesterheld

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