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An impassioned call for a return to reading poetry and an incisive argument for poetry’s accessibility to all readers, by critically acclaimed poet Matthew Zapruder In Why Poetry, award-winning poet Matthew Zapruder takes on what it is that poetry—and poetry alone—can do. Zapruder argues that the way we have been taught to read poetry is the very thing that prevents us from An impassioned call for a return to reading poetry and an incisive argument for poetry’s accessibility to all readers, by critically acclaimed poet Matthew Zapruder In Why Poetry, award-winning poet Matthew Zapruder takes on what it is that poetry—and poetry alone—can do. Zapruder argues that the way we have been taught to read poetry is the very thing that prevents us from enjoying it. In lively, lilting prose, he shows us how that misunderstanding interferes with our direct experience of poetry and creates the sense of confusion or inadequacy that many of us feel when faced with it.    Zapruder explores what poems are, and how we can read them, so that we can, as Whitman wrote, “possess the origin of all poems,” without the aid of any teacher or expert. Most important, he asks how reading poetry can help us to lead our lives with greater meaning and purpose.  Anchored in poetic analysis and steered through Zapruder’s personal experience of coming to the form, Why Poetry is engaging and conversational, even as it makes a passionate argument for the necessity of poetry in an age when information is constantly being mistaken for knowledge. While he provides a simple reading method for approaching poems and illuminates concepts like associative movement, metaphor, and negative capability, Zapruder explicitly confronts the obstacles that readers face when they encounter poetry to show us that poetry can be read, and enjoyed, by anyone.


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An impassioned call for a return to reading poetry and an incisive argument for poetry’s accessibility to all readers, by critically acclaimed poet Matthew Zapruder In Why Poetry, award-winning poet Matthew Zapruder takes on what it is that poetry—and poetry alone—can do. Zapruder argues that the way we have been taught to read poetry is the very thing that prevents us from An impassioned call for a return to reading poetry and an incisive argument for poetry’s accessibility to all readers, by critically acclaimed poet Matthew Zapruder In Why Poetry, award-winning poet Matthew Zapruder takes on what it is that poetry—and poetry alone—can do. Zapruder argues that the way we have been taught to read poetry is the very thing that prevents us from enjoying it. In lively, lilting prose, he shows us how that misunderstanding interferes with our direct experience of poetry and creates the sense of confusion or inadequacy that many of us feel when faced with it.    Zapruder explores what poems are, and how we can read them, so that we can, as Whitman wrote, “possess the origin of all poems,” without the aid of any teacher or expert. Most important, he asks how reading poetry can help us to lead our lives with greater meaning and purpose.  Anchored in poetic analysis and steered through Zapruder’s personal experience of coming to the form, Why Poetry is engaging and conversational, even as it makes a passionate argument for the necessity of poetry in an age when information is constantly being mistaken for knowledge. While he provides a simple reading method for approaching poems and illuminates concepts like associative movement, metaphor, and negative capability, Zapruder explicitly confronts the obstacles that readers face when they encounter poetry to show us that poetry can be read, and enjoyed, by anyone.

30 review for Why Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Defining poetry is a thankless job, but Matthew Zapruder, given 226 pages, pulls it off with aplomb. Leavened throughout are example poems and his own thoughts on them, as well as a little bit of memoirish recollection of his experiences as a poet, a student of poetry, and a teacher of poetry. You might add "Matters" to the title and be just as satisfied. It's one man's try at the riddle. It does, but WHY it does, is not so easy to wrangle with. So far I've riffed not once but FOUR TIMES on part Defining poetry is a thankless job, but Matthew Zapruder, given 226 pages, pulls it off with aplomb. Leavened throughout are example poems and his own thoughts on them, as well as a little bit of memoirish recollection of his experiences as a poet, a student of poetry, and a teacher of poetry. You might add "Matters" to the title and be just as satisfied. It's one man's try at the riddle. It does, but WHY it does, is not so easy to wrangle with. So far I've riffed not once but FOUR TIMES on parts of this book. If you want to go deep (as in the Hail Mary route), here are the links, the first on the only tool you'll need to "get" poetry (per Zapruder), the second on how poets make the ordinary "strange," the third on what we mean by poetry readers getting "joyfully ambushed," and the last on John Keats' famous endorsement of "negative capability" in poetry: https://kencraftpoetry.wordpress.com/... https://kencraftpoetry.wordpress.com/... kencraftpoetry.wordpress.com/2017/09/... kencraftpoetry.wordpress.com/2017/10/...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Like Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry, this aims to refute the widespread belief that poetry is difficult and based on a hidden meaning that must be unearthed. Instead, Zapruder argues, it’s about the reader making their own connections in a sort of dreamlike state, such that the rhyming might not (just) be between sounds but between concepts you hadn’t thought to link before. He talks about form and content, and gives plenty of examples, mostly from American poetry—ranging from Whitman and Dic Like Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry, this aims to refute the widespread belief that poetry is difficult and based on a hidden meaning that must be unearthed. Instead, Zapruder argues, it’s about the reader making their own connections in a sort of dreamlike state, such that the rhyming might not (just) be between sounds but between concepts you hadn’t thought to link before. He talks about form and content, and gives plenty of examples, mostly from American poetry—ranging from Whitman and Dickinson to Ashbery, Bishop and Stevens. Although I think this is more likely to appeal to people who already read and love poetry than it is to make new converts, it’s a convincing extended essay as well as a good introduction to the breadth of twentieth-century poetry.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    I loved this book so much I put it down for a week six pages before the end so that I wouldn't have to be finished with it! Zapruder's work is beautifully written, enjoyable just for the pleasure of its prose, but it also is a helpful guide to enjoying poetry. Also, it is a powerful pitch for the preciousness of poetry as a creator of an imaginative space that we need in which to bridge the differences between us. Never has a healing space like this been more needed than today. This is a lovely I loved this book so much I put it down for a week six pages before the end so that I wouldn't have to be finished with it! Zapruder's work is beautifully written, enjoyable just for the pleasure of its prose, but it also is a helpful guide to enjoying poetry. Also, it is a powerful pitch for the preciousness of poetry as a creator of an imaginative space that we need in which to bridge the differences between us. Never has a healing space like this been more needed than today. This is a lovely response to the question, Why Poetry? Because we need it to expand our lives, our hearts, our imagination, and our lives.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ally

    Recently, collections like Patricia Lockwood's MOTHERLAND FATHERLAND HOMELANDSEXUALS, Juan Felipe Herrera's NOTES ON THE ASSEMBLAGE, SPRING AND ALL by William Carlos Williams, THE AFTER PARTY by Jana Prikryl, and Najwan Darwish's NOTHING MORE TO LOSE have challenged my poetry-reading skills. They play with forms, subject matter, and style to such a degree that, at times, I felt like the poetry was "too smart" for me, or that I just didn't "get it". This shouldn't be the case, but I know that it Recently, collections like Patricia Lockwood's MOTHERLAND FATHERLAND HOMELANDSEXUALS, Juan Felipe Herrera's NOTES ON THE ASSEMBLAGE, SPRING AND ALL by William Carlos Williams, THE AFTER PARTY by Jana Prikryl, and Najwan Darwish's NOTHING MORE TO LOSE have challenged my poetry-reading skills. They play with forms, subject matter, and style to such a degree that, at times, I felt like the poetry was "too smart" for me, or that I just didn't "get it". This shouldn't be the case, but I know that it was mostly due to the poor poetry studies in my youth. So, I was genuinely pleased when I found WHY POETRY, by Matthew Zapruder. Zapruder is an award-winning poet, teacher, and general Johnny Appleseed of poetry. In his book, he is on a mission to spread the love of poetry through an increased understanding of its aims, forms, styles, and other major components. He is most interested in investigating how great poetry uses language to create a poetic state of mind in the reader. As a young child, he was enraptured by poems like Henry Wordsworth Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha" and W.H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts" but never seriously considered poetry as a career path until he had almost finished a PhD in Russian. So, he understands his students' apprehension or disinterest in poetry, but is full of techniques and insights that he shares in WHY POETRY. Each chapter features a different component of poetry that he wants to communicate, then he provides some personal anecdotes or historical facts surrounding its use, and then breaks down a few poems, or fragments of large poems, to illustrate how that component was utilized. This analysis is something I found most helpful, especially when it comes to matters of form, which is the area in which I feel the most uncertain. In the first chapter, Zapruder brings the reader into his history and early experiences with poetry. He analyzes a fragment of Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts" and talks about how reading that poem was a watershed moment for him. At the time, he didn't understand exactly why he connected so much with the poem, but over time and re-reads, as well as with his growing education in poetry, he was able to talk more coherently and specifically about what Auden was doing in the work, and why it was so engaging. Chapter 2 talks about one of the most important parts of poetry, really of language itself - the use of words. The author emphasizes that readers of poetry should take the poet's words at face value, at least initially. Think about why the poet chose the words that she/he did, and all the possible literal meanings those words might have. Sometimes this takes a little dictionary/internet research, but if it enhances your understanding and appreciation of the poem, then it's time well spent. Chapter 3 builds on this topic, with the author deeply analyzing a portion of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself", Wallace Stevens' "Tea at the Palaz of Hoon", and a section of Brenda Hillman's "Death Tractates". Most of the language is used literally, and any figurative associations are coincidental to the main idea of the poem. It's only through close and thorough review, guided here by Zapruder, that you can begin to see significant examples of non-figurative language used to great poetic effect. The fourth chapter moves into the more figurative and less straightforward aspects of poetry. Once you have a good grasp on how to read the literality of poetry, you're ready to move into the odd. As a student of the Russian language, the author references a not-easily-translatable Russian word "ostraneniye" which means something like "defamiliarization" or (my personal favorite) "strangeifying". This is in contrast to those aspects of daily life we go about in almost a robotic fashion, where everything is habitual and routine. Poets strangeify the world through paying attention to those things, and not letting them become too automatic, and seeing them in ways the rest of us might not expect. In this chapter, the author looks at the poems "Suicide's Note" by Langston Hughes, an unnamed poem of Emily Dickinson, and Antonia Machado's "At a Friend's Burial". Chapter 5 looks at how poems are structured, and some of the reasoning for using a rhyming scheme or not. The author, early in his poetry-writing life, bought one of those massive THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF POETRY collections, and discusses what the experience was like of reading it. For him, it felt that the act of writing poetry "can be a kind of seemingly impossible communion, with someone far away in time and space" which is kind of a beautiful thing to think about. Even after the poet is long gone, if her/his poetry speaks to something that means something to someone, it's like that poet is living on in concert with the reader. One of the poems that Zapruder dissects is William Carlos Williams' short, untitled poem about the "red wheel barrow". The author writes that "The line breaks and filmic way this ordinary scene is parceled out to our consciousness by the mechanism of the poem slows us down long enough for us to see once again what has become too familiar. That is the 'message' of the poem"; it's such a complicated yet simple work, because there is nothing of significance, but in the end everything is of significance because it is noticed. He also talks about how it is far less common for modern day poets to work in a rhyming structure, partially because it feels quaint and outdated, and partially because it affects the emotions and perceptions of the reader in ways the poet might not intend. The sixth chapter focuses on the frustrations that many readers have with trying to "get" the meaning or intention of poems. Chapter 7 examines the tendency of modern poetry to jump around seemingly at any moment and without cause but, upon reflection and analysis, those jumps might not be so random at all. It's also highly unlikely that poems have only one specific message to convey. As the author writes, "the poem places us in a state of heightened importance, with a sense that everything matters intensely at the moment it is being experienced". Internal consistency isn't of much importance across the entirety of the poem, as long as the essence of the work is so. Neither are the other conventions of literature, such as plot, logic, characters, settings, etc. These are of only slight interest to the poet. With poetry, embrace the strangeness. Chapter 8 explores the subsection of poetry that focuses on politics and/or political themes. The author contends that, if you are a person who cares deeply about issues like gender, the economy, race, and environment, then the poetry you write, if you allow it to flow naturally onto the page, those topics will find themselves in your poetry without having to try to hard to fit them in. Because the political world is almost always a strange place, poets should not be afraid to defamiliarize terms that politicians regularly toss around, in their work. Chapter 9 extends the author's analysis and explanation around the "jumping" that can happen in poetry. In particular interest is poetry that reads almost like stream of consciousness or dreams in that there are tenuous or thin threads connecting the poem's content from one line to the next, but over the entirety of the work there is seemingly nothing in common - called "associative movement". The author uses Robert Hass' poem "Meditation at Lagunitas" to explore this kind of poetic movement. The tenth and eleventh chapters dive deeply into the use of symbolic language in poetry, and the different occasions where one might choose to employ it or not. Chapter 12 shares in the author's coming to realize that just as clay is a medium for a sculptor, or watercolors are for a painter, that words and language are the medium in which a poet works. The thirteenth and final chapter explores the ways that poetry moves and changes us, sometimes without us being able to articulate exactly why or how it happens. The author explains that, "a poem is like a person. the more you know someone, the more you realize there is always something more to know and understand". So that sense of not quite understanding a poem just means that there is more and more to come back to and make meaning and connection. As someone who has read some poetry and wondered what the heck was happening, or if I just wasn't smart enough to understand it, I found WHY POETRY extremely comforting and helpful. It's a crash course in poetics, led by a professor who is kind, knowledgeable, and funny. I feel more of a sense of confidence in now when I read poetry collections, that however I'm feeling is appropriate and valuable. It also instilled a deeper sense of analysis that will allow me to see more deeply into some of the constructs and construction of poetry. If you are interested in trying some poetry reading of your own, but have a bad taste in your mouth from poetry lessons in your school days, I would highly recommend giving Matthew Zapruder's WHY POETRY a try.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    Why Poetry is the book I'd been hoping Poetry Will Save Your Life would be. The more poetry I read, the more curious I get about how it works, and I'm happy to say this book provided some answers. Among the many interesting points Zapruder makes, he maintains that the most crucial thing about poetry is the connections it makes. These can be connections of theme, of language, of sound—but the connections are what makes a text poetry and not just prose broken up into short lines (sorry, Rupi Kaur) Why Poetry is the book I'd been hoping Poetry Will Save Your Life would be. The more poetry I read, the more curious I get about how it works, and I'm happy to say this book provided some answers. Among the many interesting points Zapruder makes, he maintains that the most crucial thing about poetry is the connections it makes. These can be connections of theme, of language, of sound—but the connections are what makes a text poetry and not just prose broken up into short lines (sorry, Rupi Kaur). Zapruder uses some great poems to illustrate this point, and he does the same to address one of his other main points, which is that good poetry is accessible. Sure, it may have more sophisticated language than some prose does, but it's generally not hard to understand. Most memorably, Zapruder explicates a few lines of "The Wasteland"—a poem people tend to point to when they claim poetry is pretentious and impenetrable. Zapruder convincingly shows that not only is "The Wasteland" a beautiful poem and a masterpiece, it's honestly not that hard to figure out. As a reader of poetry and someone who wishes more people read poetry, I appreciated this more than I can say. In addition to teaching me a lot about poetry, Why Poetry also introduced me to some great poets and poems I wasn't familiar with. It also had some fascinating memoir elements; not enough to distract from the main purpose of the book, but enough to entertain me and keep me wanting more. I loved pretty much every page of Why Poetry. I know there are some readers who are determined to see poetry as inaccessible, and those readers will probably decide Why Poetry is similarly difficult to read. But if you're curious about poetry and have an open mind, why not check out Why Poetry?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Frank Mundo

    I liked this book in a lot of ways -- a couple are the author's story of how he found poetry and it became essential to his life -- and the author's "defense" of poetry. The chapter he explicated some famous poems is also very engaging and beautifully and thoughtfully done. A lot of it is complete BS, in my opinion, but it's 4-star BS and worth reading because Zapruder, a successful poet, serves as an excellent "defense" attorney for the subject of poetry. The problem for me, however, is this: t I liked this book in a lot of ways -- a couple are the author's story of how he found poetry and it became essential to his life -- and the author's "defense" of poetry. The chapter he explicated some famous poems is also very engaging and beautifully and thoughtfully done. A lot of it is complete BS, in my opinion, but it's 4-star BS and worth reading because Zapruder, a successful poet, serves as an excellent "defense" attorney for the subject of poetry. The problem for me, however, is this: the book is described as "an impassioned call for a return to reading poetry and an incisive argument for poetry’s accessibility to all readers." This book, however, won't be read (at least not all the way to the end) by people who don't like poetry or find it inaccessible. Why would they? This book is for poets and poetry lovers and the legions of MFA students and academics who have to explain their poetry to family and friends who think writing it, let alone reading it, is a waste of time. And, in that way, it's not a defense of poetry's accessibility to all readers. It's a justification for poets writing inaccessible poetry. After all, it's the reader (not the poets), Zapruder says, that needs to change, to relearn everything, from how to read poetry, to accepting the confusing and embracing the paradoxical and uncomfortable feelings that can come along with it. It's the readers fault it's hard to read -- but that's because they were not taught to read properly in school. I'm sure that's not what people who have trouble understanding poetry want to hear. It's exactly what they thought all along since they hated reading it in school -- it's their fault, not the writer's. Another thing that bothers me is offering up Keats and Shakespeare and Whitman and all these great dead poets as examples. These are the same poets who are the reason most readers got turned off of poetry in school in the first place -- because it wasn't accessible and made them feel dumb for not "getting it." Zapruder further wants the readers to accept that meaning may not be found in poetry. There's nothing to get (except the-nothing-to-get-ness, which should be embraced). I just think, if a person not interested in poetry hears this argument (or justification), it's not going to fly. Why not use some poems right out of today's publications, which would have no interest in publishing Shakespeare and Keats were they alive today. Why? And this is the problem: Because the poems published today in the New Yorker and other top journals are just as difficult and inaccessible to readers without experience, knowledge and the love for poetry. Again, the writing in Why Poetry is truly wonderful, the concept is commendable, it's engaging and written simply and confidently, and there is so much here to enjoy -- if you love poetry, write poetry, teach poetry, study poetry or if, like the author, poetry is already essential to your life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    There were a hundred bright spots in this eloquent book: beautiful, essential quotes about poetry from the greatest poets themselves. These were a shortcut straight to the heart of poetry. There were other bright spots of Zapruder's own clear explanations of the mysterious power of poetry. It's just that as a whole, it failed to carry the reader along with elegance and enthusiasm, and failed to provide much in the way of a conclusion at the end. For a truly elegant book on poetry that is as poeti There were a hundred bright spots in this eloquent book: beautiful, essential quotes about poetry from the greatest poets themselves. These were a shortcut straight to the heart of poetry. There were other bright spots of Zapruder's own clear explanations of the mysterious power of poetry. It's just that as a whole, it failed to carry the reader along with elegance and enthusiasm, and failed to provide much in the way of a conclusion at the end. For a truly elegant book on poetry that is as poetic, moving, and inspired as the poem it contains, read Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination. It is the best book defending and explaining poetry that I have ever read (and, what's more, it includes poems from all eras, not just contemporary poetry.) Nonetheless, I flagged a hundred bright spots to keep as treasured quotes from Zapruder's work and I truly benefitted from my time in his company. He gave a lot of courage to an aspiring amateur poet, and for that I am grateful. I loved how he embraced the mysterious machinery of poetry but still took care to explain to those who are less wise to its ways. But to claim that your books explains "why poetry" exists and is useful, then to end with such a nihilistic understanding of the universe was a real let-down, and the book didn't carry me with its own momentum so much as I forced myself to keep trudging through it in the hopes of encountering more bright spots of insight from Zapruder and his many favorite thinkers.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    If you have to ask this question, you probably aren't interested in reading this book. And if you are simply curious as to the answer to this question, you might be able to write a better book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jsavett1

    Matthew Zapruder's book of poetry Come On All You Ghosts is one of my favorites. His work is associative, surreal, fun, smart, blue. This book is amazing. As an English teacher and poet, it spoke to me on many levels. I plan on using excerpts for my AP Literature class this Fall. Zapruder artfully and convincingly breaks down presuppositions that many have about poetry and then teaches the reader about how he doesn't need to teach the reader how to love poetry. Most importantly, for me, is Zaprud Matthew Zapruder's book of poetry Come On All You Ghosts is one of my favorites. His work is associative, surreal, fun, smart, blue. This book is amazing. As an English teacher and poet, it spoke to me on many levels. I plan on using excerpts for my AP Literature class this Fall. Zapruder artfully and convincingly breaks down presuppositions that many have about poetry and then teaches the reader about how he doesn't need to teach the reader how to love poetry. Most importantly, for me, is Zapruder's argument/belief that poetry is not one of life's accessories or ornaments. Poets are not to be wheeled out at inaugurations and national tragedies. Poets and poetry give us an alternative and ESSENTIAL headspace free from the utilitarian, capitalist, banal use of language and the commodification of everything in our world. Poetry is the anti-Trump. It lets us bask in ambiguity, in complexity, it lets us FEEL what it FEELS like to know it's okay to not know. If you have ANY interest in starting to read poetry OR you are an English educator, this book is a must.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    "I have a confession to make: I don’t really understand poetry." For over twenty-five years, I have heard this said, over and over in slightly different ways, but friends, family, colleagues, strangers I met in bars and at dinner parties, on planes -- so many people, practically everyone who found out I was a poet. Clearly, there is something about poetry that rattles and mystifies people, that makes them feel as if there is something wrong. Maybe the problem is with them as readers... or maybe "I have a confession to make: I don’t really understand poetry." For over twenty-five years, I have heard this said, over and over in slightly different ways, but friends, family, colleagues, strangers I met in bars and at dinner parties, on planes -- so many people, practically everyone who found out I was a poet. Clearly, there is something about poetry that rattles and mystifies people, that makes them feel as if there is something wrong. Maybe the problem is with them as readers... or maybe the problem is with poetry itself. why don't poets just say what they mean? why do they make it so hard? ... How poetry creates the poetic state of mind in a reader is the central question of this book. It happens through the form of the poem, which guides the mind of the reader. It happens through leaps of association. And it happens as the poem explores and activates and plays with the nature of language itself. This is a great introduction to poetry, but difficult to summarize. Zapruder starts by arguing that poetry isn't as esoteric as people believe. The first couple of chapters are about how poetry is different from other kinds of writing and about meaning in poetry. Some of the other chapters are essays on specific concepts (such as chapter 10 on metaphor) but much of this book examines specific poems. There is a good interview with the author here: https://thecreativeindependent.com/pe... a partial list of the poems discussed: Moore, Marianne: Poetry Keats, John: To Autumn Auden, W.H.: Musee de Beaux Arts Machado, Antonio: At a Friend's Burial Neruda, Pablo: The Enigmas Dickinson: I Felt A Funeral In My Brain/Hope is the Thing With Feathers

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    What a beautiful little book. I'll admit, poetry has frequently intimidated me. Even poems that I love, I have often felt that I didn't really understand them. This book helped me to realize that I do in fact, "get" poetry. That it isn't beyond me. It is also inspiring me to write poetry again...something I haven't done in 20 years.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Flynn

    Re-read! I think this is my favorite book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Raechel

    This book took me a long time to get through. I read it very slowly because I don't "get" poetry. A lot of the problems I have with it are covered by the author. There's plenty of example poems that Zapruder walks the reader through to help them understand how to read a poem better. It was very helpful, although I wouldn't say I am completely confident in my ability to understand poetry now. But I do plan to read more poetry to practice my new poetry-reading skills now that I've finished this bo This book took me a long time to get through. I read it very slowly because I don't "get" poetry. A lot of the problems I have with it are covered by the author. There's plenty of example poems that Zapruder walks the reader through to help them understand how to read a poem better. It was very helpful, although I wouldn't say I am completely confident in my ability to understand poetry now. But I do plan to read more poetry to practice my new poetry-reading skills now that I've finished this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kenny Chaffin

    I love the "Poetry for the People" attitude and the argument that the only reason people shy away from poetry is because it is being taught completely wrong. Zapruder goes through chapter after chapter explaining this - the meanings, the reason, the metaphors, the reality of poetry and does it simply and wonderfully. My only wish is that he would have included many more contemporary poets and examples of their poetry -- there are so many wonderful ones - Billy Collins, Ted Koozer, Dorianne Laux, I love the "Poetry for the People" attitude and the argument that the only reason people shy away from poetry is because it is being taught completely wrong. Zapruder goes through chapter after chapter explaining this - the meanings, the reason, the metaphors, the reality of poetry and does it simply and wonderfully. My only wish is that he would have included many more contemporary poets and examples of their poetry -- there are so many wonderful ones - Billy Collins, Ted Koozer, Dorianne Laux, Li-Young Lee, Divid Shumate, Yusef Komunyakaa, Tony Hoagland, hell even my favorite Jane Kenyon! And many even newer amazing poets I'm just discovering.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Stephenson

    I love this book because it comes very close to describing the draw of poetry to myself, a poet. It is refreshing for words to describe an indescribable feeling. This is, after all, why I love poetry.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joan Colby

    There are contradictions in Zapruder’s ideas which he would, I imagine, be the first to admit. He posits that poetry is available to everyone, but poetry isn’t easy, it makes demands to which only those with a dedication to the word would submit. The poems the general reader likes and understands without needing to reference a body of knowledge are those that are either rank with the appeal of sentiment or deceptively transparent as much of Frost pretends to be. While Zapruder laments the close There are contradictions in Zapruder’s ideas which he would, I imagine, be the first to admit. He posits that poetry is available to everyone, but poetry isn’t easy, it makes demands to which only those with a dedication to the word would submit. The poems the general reader likes and understands without needing to reference a body of knowledge are those that are either rank with the appeal of sentiment or deceptively transparent as much of Frost pretends to be. While Zapruder laments the close readings and reductionist practices that he says make students hate poetry, he employs these very techniques to examine many of the poems he uses as examples. The academic approach continues to govern not the comprehension of poetry so much as its architecture. If an author retreats to Emily’s “body turned cold” way of experiencing the validity of a poem, then he has a very brief book, if he has one at all. So when as Zapruder does here, you look at the ways poetry works, you end up writing a manual, and like all such tracts, it verges into instruction and the mechanics of construction—things the casual reader, the one who claims to hate poetry, would dismiss as being outside his area of interest—and rightly so. As a car owner, you may wish to simply enjoy driving or the usefulness of how this transportation gets you places you need to go. You don’t necessarily want to learn the workings of the engine or how the computerized console evolved. The same with poetry. Zapruder would do better admitting these are essays for the poetic adventurer—the serious reader that he himself evolved into, though like many such, he didn’t have an initial grounding in semantics—though maybe as a Russian language major, he actually did. To be honest, I wanted to enjoy this book more than I do. It’s too reminiscent of so much academic writing about poetry by better critics like Tony Hoagland or Helen Vendler. Further, Zapruder has a tendency to wax over-enthusiastic about how poetry enriches a life. Of course it can, but so do many of the related arts. The short story can equal poetry in offering an epiphany that can be life changing and can also be as subtle and mysterious as any poem. Using Ashbery to illustrate close reading—an academic activity—but not one likely to convince the average reader of the need to add poetry to his reading list, is an error. Make no mistake, this is an informed book for the working poet, but I think the way it is being sold to non-specialists is more than a little misleading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    This book is thoughtful, pleasant, but probably redundant and unnecessary... Or maybe I've lately read too many books ABOUT poetry rather than OF poetry?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen Douglass

    I read many books about poetry; this is one of the best. Rather than a craft book, Zapruder has given me a thoughtful consideration of the role that poetry plays in our private and public life. If I ever doubt my usefulness as a poet, I need only consider this:"...poetry by its nature makes meaning by revealing hidden connections" (130). And in an era of dangerous disconnects, poetry matters more than ever. So, in a troubled world I can contribute in a slim way to the healing we need. Even if th I read many books about poetry; this is one of the best. Rather than a craft book, Zapruder has given me a thoughtful consideration of the role that poetry plays in our private and public life. If I ever doubt my usefulness as a poet, I need only consider this:"...poetry by its nature makes meaning by revealing hidden connections" (130). And in an era of dangerous disconnects, poetry matters more than ever. So, in a troubled world I can contribute in a slim way to the healing we need. Even if the connection is with that inner self who shyly seeks meaning beyond the news that all too often means nothing or it means trouble. Read it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ingo Gallant-botham

    Despite the hideous design of the book cover I loved every page I read. The author certainly mixes his own poetic career with the question why poetry is still important and worth reading even after the heydays of poetry (e.g. Romanticism) came to an end a long time ago. He also introduces the reader to more contemporary poets (e.g. W.S.Mervin). Finally he explains the "magic" behind a poem and why not every poem is to be read as trying to decrypt a code. If you've never been interested in poetry but Despite the hideous design of the book cover I loved every page I read. The author certainly mixes his own poetic career with the question why poetry is still important and worth reading even after the heydays of poetry (e.g. Romanticism) came to an end a long time ago. He also introduces the reader to more contemporary poets (e.g. W.S.Mervin). Finally he explains the "magic" behind a poem and why not every poem is to be read as trying to decrypt a code. If you've never been interested in poetry but always wanted to know why some people make such a fuss of it, read that book and you'll most likely understand.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Isla McKetta

    I opened this book to understand why writing poetry called to me so hard. I found insight into the poetic form, understanding about the wall between most readers and poetry, and a better comprehension of why poetry is for me. Zapruder's writing is intelligent and clear without sacrificing personability and whimsy and I look forward to reading this book over and over again.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Antonia

    Fantastic book on poetry! I'll be back with a review. I'll return to it again and again. Can't recommend it highly enough, to beginners and accomplished poets alike. And to those who don't "get" poetry. Zapruder may just open your eyes and your heart.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I read this book slowly, over months, because I wanted to absorb all the author had to say. Overall, an inspiring book that encourages opening to connective flow in poetry, and serves as a reminder of the vastness of being.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Doug Newell

    After reading, I have a much better grasp on modern poetry. I liked the biographical elements to the book, as well as how he breaks down some poems to illustrate how they work. Zapruder and I would disagree on epistemological grounds, but he does a good job explaining what he and other modern poets are setting out to do.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sheldon Compton

    Zapruder gets me excited about poetry, and more relaxed. That's key, really - more relaxed. This is a good one for any level of poet, I'd say. Worth the read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Why Poetry? Review

  26. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    Felt a bit contradictory at times and not a great way for an average person to understand "Why Poetry." I did enjoy some poems within the book and explanations. Didn't love the addition of anything political but I can understand why it was added there. Overall, I do still want to try reading poetry after this but I doubt I'll want to look into more difficult to read ones. Also kind of want to try my hand at poetry for fun.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kira

    The author writes about (a) how poetry increases our understanding of the world, using quotes from poets throughout history and sharing his own personal journey as a poet, (b) how poetry differs from other writing, in it's ability to make associative leaps, and (c) how to read poetry, starting with the words, and escaping the burden of academic meaning-finding. He does this with explanations both beautiful and clear (unlike the hackneyed summary I just wrote). It was a fun and inspiring read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Huang

    i can't say enough about this book. each chapter of this book was so important for me to read and reread and totally imbibe. this book will make your brain feel like it has gone for a refreshing jog for the first time in months of sitting around feeling slothful. as i read the book, and took in the excerpts of poems, i noted how much more comfortable i was with reading poetry, no more stressed-out questions trying to get to the purpose of things, simply allowing my mind to activate as the poet's i can't say enough about this book. each chapter of this book was so important for me to read and reread and totally imbibe. this book will make your brain feel like it has gone for a refreshing jog for the first time in months of sitting around feeling slothful. as i read the book, and took in the excerpts of poems, i noted how much more comfortable i was with reading poetry, no more stressed-out questions trying to get to the purpose of things, simply allowing my mind to activate as the poet's did, allowing the associations and convocations to accrue rather than trying to logic my way to any solid, sayable purpose. so many beautiful concepts are addressed here - "strangeifying", meaning being extracted out of the nothingness, the inherent limitation of words and how poets play with them to wring out thoughts that we have no other way of saying, trusting wisdom to come from association rather than information, imagination as a space, the activation of meaningfulness with the use of silence. having read this book, a number of things have changed about my life. i'm so much more able to appreciate music (i used to think i should "get" music the way people often stress about "getting" poetry), express my personal thoughts in journaling (i used to want to say the exact right thing based on the exact right definition, and exert myself quite a bit thinking of the write sentences, but now i can flow more knowing that i can accumulate meaning slowly through a more evocative use of words). if you're not already comfortable with poetry, every single page drips with mind-opening wisdom that centers on discussing on poetry reading but really gets your mind opened to a whole new world of abstract thought.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    I made it to page 134 (+ skipped ahead and read the afterword) and I can’t help but feel this book has been grossly misrepresented. Despite the jacket flap (which totally sold me!) it comes across as very high-brow and academic to me. I have a pretty darn good vocabulary, and while I understand the words Zapruder is using, I cannot believe how many complex words he can shove into a single sentence. I’m uninspired and this completely missed the mark for me. I recognize that there are some great i I made it to page 134 (+ skipped ahead and read the afterword) and I can’t help but feel this book has been grossly misrepresented. Despite the jacket flap (which totally sold me!) it comes across as very high-brow and academic to me. I have a pretty darn good vocabulary, and while I understand the words Zapruder is using, I cannot believe how many complex words he can shove into a single sentence. I’m uninspired and this completely missed the mark for me. I recognize that there are some great ideas and points made and I did learn a few new concepts in the chapters I read, but I just don’t see this reinvigorating poetry for the average reader.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dee

    Perfect in its plain prose, its clear urgency about how we need poetry in every part of our lives. "The experience of getting close to the unsayable and feeling it, and how we are brought to that place beyond words by words themselves, is the subject of this book." p. xv "Poems can return us to an understanding about language, and the world, that is related to the most basic truths of existence." p. 42 "To read a poem is to move through that constructed space of ideas and thinking." p. 57 "Poetry is Perfect in its plain prose, its clear urgency about how we need poetry in every part of our lives. "The experience of getting close to the unsayable and feeling it, and how we are brought to that place beyond words by words themselves, is the subject of this book." p. xv "Poems can return us to an understanding about language, and the world, that is related to the most basic truths of existence." p. 42 "To read a poem is to move through that constructed space of ideas and thinking." p. 57 "Poetry is a constructed conversation on the frontier of dreaming. It is a mechanism by which the essential state of reverie can be made available to our conscious minds." p. 81 "When it comes to social issues, the ease with which we can find out information and vicariously experience the suffering of others, can make us feel as if, merely by knowing something and passing it along, we are doing something, when in fact, sadly, we are not." p. 97 "Sometimes it seems to me that unless I turn off all the electronics in my immediate vicinity, I will be surrounded by a kind of existential buzzing, a deafening sound composed of everyone's thoughts, opinions, commentaries, clever jokes, contradictory certainties, intense worries, gateless fears." p. 221

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