IntroductionSuppose you invented a way to concentrate all the best things people everthought and felt into a very few words. And suppose you did something to thosewords to make them pleasant, beautiful, unforgettable, and moving. Supposethis invention could get people to notice more of their own lives, sharpen theirawareness, pay attention to things they’d never really considered before.Suppose it could make their lives—and them—better.You’d really have something there.Well, don’t look now, but that invention has been around for at least 5,000 years—probably more. Millions of people love it and make it part of their lives. Theyturn to it when they need a smile, a lift, a moment of thoughtfulness. Andmillions of people write it, too.What is this fantastic creation? Poetry. And it includes the work of Homer,Sappho, Kalidasa, Dante, Shakespeare, Ono no Komachi, Keats, Basho, Byron,Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, Yeats, Plath, Ginsburg, Amiri Imamu Baraka,Adrienne Rich, Gerald Stern, Lucille Clifton, and many others. It’s been a greatsix millenniums, and we’re starting the seventh in better shape than ever.Poetry saw a tremendous surge in popularity at the end of the twentieth century–from poetry magnet mania to the explosion of poetry slams across the countryto an increased public appreciation of poets. And here in the twenty-firstcentury, poetry continues to win more and more people over. And why not? It’sgreat stuff.We love poetry so much that we wrote this book. Most poets write poems foranyone who is willing to read and listen. But sometimes between the poet’snotebook and the listening public a break occurs. Our hope and vision was tooffer a book that might get past the things that sometimes divide poets andreaders, things like technique, style, and school or genre, and the randomdistribution of books, poetry books, and journals.Our job in writing Poetry For Dummies was to bridge the literary gaps and throwopen the doors of poetry—past, present, and future—to all. And, our hope is thatif you, or any of your friends or family, say they “don’t get” poetry or “don’tlike” poetry, this book just might change their minds.Oh, and one promise: if you let it poetry into your life—if you read aloud andread attentively, discover how to interpret poetry for yourself—you’ll start seeingbenefits, including a broader life, a more sensitive awareness, and a more flexiblespirit.If you are a poet or want to try your hand at poetry, welcome to an ancient andever-changing craft with many traditions, rewards, and challenges.
About This BookPoetry For Dummies is for everyone. In these pages, we serve as your guides in theart of reading and interpreting poetry. We hope you will discover poets youhadn’t heard of or read before, revisit some old favorites, and pick up somepointers on poetry that will bring you a new understanding and enjoyment ofthe art.Besides being a good introduction to the history of world poetry, Poetry ForDummies also offers a lot of practical information, too. Not sure of a literary term?Check our glossary. Looking for poetry on the Web? Our resource guide in theAppendix will point you in the direction of a few good places to start. Have apoem you’ve written that you want to get out in to the world? Read the book’schapter on “Going Public” for information and tips on how to get out and readyour poem in public or send it out for publication.The book’s many writing exercises can be used to brush up on writing skills, addstructure to your writing life, and help you break out of a writer’s block. Have abroken heart and want to write a traditional poem to bring your loved one back?Check out the section on writing sonnets and traditional forms (we offer noguarantees, of course). We hope the book inspires you to pick up pen and paper.Once you start thinking about poetry, you will notice it is all around you. Wegive you tips on where to find poetry, where to find poetry readings and otherevents, and which journals to pick up if you want to read the latest poetry beingpublished.These are just a few of the ways we think readers can make use of this book. Therest, as they say, is up to you.How This Book Is OrganizedThis book does four things at once: * It introduces you to reading and interpreting poetry. * It introduces you to writing poetry. * It tells you about poetry history, movements, and techniques. * It guides you to good ways to find out more about poetry (organizations and magazines devoted to poets and poetry, places to see readings, and Web sites, for example).This book does have a logical organization, and we invite you to use it. But by allmeans, be your own guide. Go straight to the parts you find most interesting.
Flip through. See what looks good. If a poem beckons you, stop and read it. We’llwait.If you’re not sure where to begin, start with Chapter 2, which is about readingpoetry aloud. Reading aloud is a skill many people haven’t exercised since theyleft grade school. We help you get your reading muscles in shape and ready forany poem that comes your way. Chapter 2 is good preparation. The followingsections explain how the book is broken down and lets you know what you canexpect to find in each part. Part I: Reading Poetry: A Poetry-Lover’s Guide to the ArtWhat is poetry, anyway? Where does it come from and why is it important? Inthis part, we define poetry and discuss where it stands at the beginning of thetwenty-first century. Here you also find a short course on the essential skill ofreading aloud (the best way to get to know poetry). Part II: The Parts of a PoemReading poems is fine. But thinking about what they mean and how the poets gotto that meaning is even better. So in the chapters in this part, we look at howpoems work. We survey the elements that make up poetry, beginning with theways poets work with language, including the many varieties of metaphor,symbol, speaker, and situation. Then we move to subject and tone.Then we get to talk about interpretation—the best way to get the most out of thepoems you read. Becoming a good interpreter of poetry means paying attentionto what you think, becoming more alert and sensitive, and being very aware ofdetail and implication. Yes, it’s details, details, details! Part III: In the Beginning Was a PoemIn this part, you get to flip through the family photos, so to speak . We figuredyou would want a little background on the whole endeavor, so we loadeverybody on a bus and roar, tilting from side to side, through a quick tour of the5,000 years of poetry. It has been an eventful 5,000 years, we can tell you that. Thetwentieth century appears in its very own chapter because, well, it was theCentury of Poetry.In this part, we also take a look at the forms poetry has taken all over theworld—because, after all, not all poetry is written in English.
Part IV: Writing Poetry: A Guide For Aspiring PoetsEveryone is waiting for the next Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson to appear onthe literary horizon. Here we show you a sampling of techniques, goodapproaches, and suggest some standards for you to shoot for. Want to submityour poems for publication? Enter the performance scene? You’ll find someadvice on this, too. The writing exercises collected here should bring out the poetin just about anyone. Warning: writing poetry can be habit forming. Part V: The Part of TensThis book wouldn’t be a …For Dummies book without a Part of Tens. The Part ofTens in this book gives you: ten myths about poetry (true and untrue), ten linesof poetry to memorize for life, ten great poems, and ten love poems for you toread and enjoy. This is a great place to turn if you have just a few minutes here orthere and you want to soak up as much information and poetry as you can. Go toThe Part of Tens for your regular quick poetry fix. Part VI: AppendixesIn this part you find resources for ways to get even more poetry than you’ll findin these pages. We list Web sites that specialize in poetry, locations of poetrycenters, and places around the country that offer poetry events of all kinds. Wetell you about the big poetry festivals throughout the country (Cowboy poetry?You bet!), and steer you toward the magazines and journals that publish poetry.We also include a brief list of books helpful to readers and especially aspiringpoets.This part is also where you can find a glossary of literary and poetic terms and atimeline for the whole history of world poetry. And then we blow kisses, saddlethe mules, cue the organist, and sprint madly around until we melt into thesunset.Icons Used in This BookThroughout the book, you will encounter icons, which are the pictures in themargin that alert you to a special feature, or a piece of information, advice, orinstruction. They’re meant to help direct you to the indispensable moments, theabsolute honey of the book. We’ll use the following seven icons:
<ReadAloud>This is one icon you see a lot of throughout this book. Whenever we quote apassage, we mean for you to read it aloud. Poetry is meant to be read aloud forthe best and fullest effect. This is your opportunity to give your voice to poetry.And if you seize that opportunity, you’ll get the most out of Poetry For Dummies.<Tip>When you see this icon, you can count on finding an essential bit of advice thatwill make you a better reader, interpreter, or writer of poetry.<Technical Stuff>This icon points to historical or technical information of great value. So open upyour brain and get ready to get technical.<Remember>Some thoughts are simply essential, such as the sentence, “Poetry is meant to beread aloud.” Because such sentences appear more than once, we tag them withthis icon so you remember to put them in your brain for keeps.<Caution>When you see this icon, you know to avoid the idea or habit it highlights. Or atleast handle the topic gently.<Bookbag>This icon alerts you to some sources for some of the greatest poetry in history.You don’t have to read all these books—but if you’re wondering, “What’s sogreat about Homer?” or “Who is this Emily Dickinson anyway?” an excellentway to find the answer is to sit down and read a few lines. So fill your Bookbagand fill your mind!<Muse>The gal in this icon is Calliope, the Greek muse of poetry and, fittingly enough,the head of all the muses. She pops up whenever we encounter something trulyinspiring, when you can really see the insight and invigoration of poetryhappening right before your eyes. She looks pretty happy, doesn’t she —almostas if she’s saying, “Did you see that?”A Final WordPoetry is for everyone. Poets write for the world, which, last time we checked, iswhere you live. And knowing about poetry can make your world better.The idea is not to learn it all; nobody ever could. The idea is to get started, to learna little about how poetry works, and how writing poetry works, and then blazeyour own path. Think of this book as your first step in forging your very ownpersonal taste in poetry, or in exploring your own powers as a poet. Talk aboutthe thrill of beginnings! So what are you waiting for? Turn the page and diveright in.