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How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry (Harvest Book) by Edward Hirsch
How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry (Harvest Book)

lizradford, October 10, 2011

“This is a book about reading poetry. It is also a book of readings,” writes Edward Hirsch in the preface of “How to Read a Poem… and Fall in Love with Poetry.” The author of five books of poetry, Mr. Hirsch purports “poems breathe deeper meaning into our lives, and … we in turn breathe deeper life into poems.” The overall approachability of this prose about poems does seem to reflect his desire for an engaged reader, as do his exhortations about the value of the reader. With an academic but enthusiastic voice, he guides us through interpretation of content, form, and history (including biographical information about poets) in the context of themed categories/chapters. “Chapter 1: Message in a Bottle” examines the relationship between poet and reader; “Chapter 2: A Made Thing” looks closely at the form; “Chapter 3: A Hand, A Hook, A Prayer,” describes human connection made within and through poetry; “Chapter 5: At the White Heat” reviews poems of passion and ecstasy. (There are twelve chapters.) As a scholar of sensitive communication, Mr. Hirsch offers something of himself (a fair trade) as he implores us to bring ourselves to the readings: “Chapter 4: Three Initiatives” highlights the poems that originally inspired him and in his mind illuminated the unique function of poetry. “Poetry is a form of necessary speech,” he writes. Mr. Hirsch’s passion might be best captured by William Carlos Williams (page 193): “It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there.”
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