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How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with…

How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry

by Edward Hirsch

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The title of this book is misleading. It does not tell a beginner (or an experienced reader, for that matter) how to read a poem. I wish the publisher had called it "How to Fall in Love with Poetry."
The author shares his own views on reading and interpreting poems. And he seems to assume that his audience has read a lot of poetry. I mean a LOT.
An enjoyable read, but frustrating in being written for an audience not like me. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
I mostly used this book to discover new poems to love. Among them: Yehuda Amichai's "A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention," Delmore Schwartz's "Baudelaire," the last lines of Robert Frost's "Desert Places," Nazim Hikmet's "Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison" and "On Living," Tadeusz Rozewicz's "In the Midst of Life," Wislawa Szymborska's "Children of Our Age" and "Reality Demands," WCW's "Aspohdel, That Greeny Flower," and reawakened my interest in Anglo-Saxon poetry. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
First Edition. Signed copy by the author.
  50worth | Feb 14, 2015 |
I loved this book. Hirsch's love for poets and poetry was infectious for me, and I found myself digging up all kinds of poetry online while I was reading it and after I was finished. I have another Hirsch book on my shelf, and I can't wait to read it! ( )
  EileenWYSIWYG | Jun 1, 2011 |
This book might have said what it said in half the words. Poetry, I guess, means not having to abridge your temptation to gush; and dry brevity might not be the way to address poetry; but could we strike a happy medium? I felt somewhat like Mr. Hirsch's editor had a word count he had to meet.

Did I learn anything about poetry? Not especially. But I did find a thoroughly delightful poem I'd never seen before about Geoffry the Complete Cat and for this I am ever grateful to Mr. Hirsch and forgive him his wordiness. ( )
  webreader | Mar 16, 2009 |
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I dreamed that I floated at will in the great Ether, and I saw this world floating also not far off, but diminished to the size of an apple. Then an angel took it in his hand and brought it to me and said, "This must thou eat."

And I ate the world.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
for Richard Howard,
adept of the world of reading
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Read these poems to yourself in the middle of the night.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156005662, Paperback)

Edward Hirsch's primer may very well inspire readers to catch the next flight for Houston and sign up for any and all of his courses. Not for nothing does this attentive and adoring poet-teacher title his book How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry; Hirsch's big guide to getting the most out of this form is packed with inspiring examples and thousands of epigrams and allusions. Above all, he is intent on poetry's physical and emotional power. In chapters devoted to the lyric, the narrative, the poetry of sorrow, of ecstasy, of witness, Hirsch continually conveys the sheer ecstasy of this vital act of communication. (He takes us, for instance, with great care and mounting excitement, through Emily Brontë's "Spellbound," which he discovered at age 8 when "baseball season was over for the year.") Above all, there is the thrill of discovery as Hirsch offers up works by artists ranging from Anna Akhmatova to Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop to Adam Zagajewski, and everyone in between. I defy you not to fall in love with Wislawa Szymborska on the basis of "The Joy of Writing," which begins:
Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Elsewhere, Hirsch's section on Sterling Brown's redefinitions of African American work songs should put this neglected poet back on the map. And his introductions to Eastern European poets such as Jirí Orten, Attila József, and Miklós Radnóti will make you want to ferret out their hard-to-find work. (Perhaps his publisher should put out a companion anthology...)

Hirsch manages to cram entire worlds and lives into 258 pages of text (which he follows up with a huge glossary and extended reading list). His two paragraphs on Juan Gelman, whose son was murdered and pregnant daughter-in-law disappeared during Argentina's "Dirty War," bring this man's art into clear, tragic focus. But even here, the compulsively generous author is compelled to enshrine the words of other critics, foregrounding Eduardo Galeano and Julio Cortázar, who describes Gelman's art as "a permanent caress of words on unknown tombs." What a pleasure it is to be inside Hirsch's head! He seems to have read everything and absorbed most of it, and he wears his considerable scholarship lightly. Many of his fellow poets have suffered for their art, have been imprisoned and killed--but above all, Hirsch makes us realize that, no matter what the artist's circumstances, subject, or theme, "the stakes are always high" in this game that writer and reader alike must keep playing. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:47 -0400)

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Describes why poetry matters and tells us how we can open up our imaginations so its message can make a difference.

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