5 Star Fridays · non fiction · Reader's Advisory

How to Read a Poem, by Edward Hirsch

The Five Star Favorite is sponsored this week by National Poetry Month.

I freely admit that I cannot analyze or intelligently discuss the form, meter, or meaning of a poem; however, that does not mean I can’t enjoy the rarified stillness and awe that verse can instill.

Nonetheless, I picked up How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love With Poetry by Edward Hirsch because  it is never too late to learn something new.

How to Read a PoemSummary: How to Read a Poem is an unprecedented exploration of poetry and feeling. In language at once acute and emotional, Edward Hirsch writes about what poetry is, why it matters, and how we can open up our imaginations so that its message can make a difference. In a marvelous reading of verse from around the world, including works by, Wallace Stevens, Charles Baudelaire, Sylvia Plath, and Pablo Neruda, Hirsch discovers the meaning of their words and ideas and brings their sublime message home into our hearts. A masterful work by a master poet, this brilliant summation of poetry and human nature will speak to all readers who long to place poetry in their lives.

Even the chapter titles – “Message in a Bottle,” “A Made Thing,” and “A Hand, a Hook, a Prayer,” for example – hint at the author’s approach.  As  Hirsch quotes Paul Celan, “A poem, as a manifestation of language and thus essentially dialogue, can be a message in a bottle, sent out in the—not always greatly hopeful—belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land, on heartland perhaps. Poems in this sense, too, are under way: they are making toward something.”

In the first chapter alone, Hirsch says that the reader of poetry is “a kind of pilgrim setting out…” and that poetry is a “voicing, a calling forth.” Hirsch wrote that a lyric poem “speaks out of a solitude to a solitude,” thereby creating a relationship between the poet and the reader with its “stored magic.”

Throughout, Hirsch explains how metaphor and form are used to create meaning, emotion, and intimacy.

I recommend How to Read a Poem for readers who like the challenge of learning how truth, desolation, justice, and repetition are used by poets to create and communicate with such intensity.

However, lest we forget: poetry is to be savored.  It does not require analysis, and there is more than one way to interpret its meaning.  All the reader needs to do is engage with the written word.

Happy reading, Susan C.

Other titles you may enjoy:

A Grain of Poetry A Grain of Poetry – How to Read Contemporary Poems and Make them a Part of Your Life by Herbert R. Kohl

In A Grain of Poetry, Herbert Kohl presents a series of guideposts to help everyone read poetry and discover those poems that inform and inspire them. In clear, direct language, he covers all of the essential-but often unchartedpaths to understanding poetry: form and structure, line breaks and pauses, rhythm and melody, imagery, and recitation. Written by one of the country’s leading educators, A Grain of Poetry is a comprehensive and accessible guide for all poets, students, and poetry lovers.

The Spoken Word Revolution

The Spoken Word Revolution: Slam, Hip Hop & the Poetry of a New Generation  edited by Marc Eleveld

The Spoken Word Revolution brings to life the written and performed works of more than 40 of the most influential slam, hip hop, performance art and contemporary poets in the world today. This defining collection of spoken word poetry captures today’s electrifying words and voices, in text and immediately live on one audio CD.

 

 

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