So I've had this book on my nightstand for awhile and somehow it never made it down to my office to be written about.
But since it's moving into the holiday season, How To Read a Poem by Tania Runyan, may be a good choice.
What's lovely about this book is that it not only shares how to read a poem, but also includes an anthology with poems by Barbara Crooker, Maureen Doallas, Bob Hicok, and many others.
This would be a great book for anyone who is new to poetry, both as a reader or writer.
Full disclosure-- My poem from the Virginia Quarterly Review, is in the first chapter on imagery.
What I like about this book? It explains the tidbits (imagery, sound, line, but also "that A-ha moment," and other chapters that will move the reader inside the poem) that as poets, we know, but others may not.
I like that the book is not overwhelming. Runyan shares a bit about the subject, then there are poems to explore yourself.
As I said, I think this would be a great gift for any of your friends or family who is interested in what you do as a poet, or anyone who has shown an interest in the poem.
As a poet, it may help you look at the poem with new fresh eyes and remember why you read poetry and love it.
How to read a poem. A lot of books want to teach you just that. How is this one different? Think of it less as an instructional book and more as an invitation. For the reader new to poetry, this guide will open your senses to the combined craft and magic known as "poems". For the well versed, if you will, this book might make you fall in love again. How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem "Introduction to Poetry")—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology included.
PRAISE FOR How To Read a Poem:
While this book says it’s an invitation, it’s really much more. It’s a conversation—between you (lucky reader), Tania Runyan (funny, helpful friend) and these poems (brilliantly brought to the table by Runyan). No reader, experienced or new to reading poems, will want to miss this winsome and surprising way into the rich, wonderful conversations that poetry makes possible. —David Wright, Assistant Professor of English at Monmouth College, IL
Runyan expertly brings you into her world of approaching and interpreting poetry, which is both mysterious and ordered. I would recommend this book to anyone hoping to gain insight into poetry. Prepare to have your heart captured! —Thomas Purnell, Licensed Professional Counselor
Having taught poetry in high schools for over twenty-five years, I’ve grown tired of Intro-to-Poetry texts that feel they must overwhelm the student with the authors’ erudition or the art’s storied history of technique. If there is truly a need for the news only poetry can deliver, then those tomes make dismal advertisements. Tania Runyan has broken with this flat tradition and, in affectionate conversation with the wit of Billy Collins, produced a model for engaging in discovery of poetry’s value—no prior book-learning or companion text required. Which is not to say her ambition is slight; she would thrill to see novices become lifelong readers, even passionate scholars of the art and poets themselves, but she gets it. Her book reads like a playful love letter—a creative intercession on poetry’s behalf—to the hearts of a new generation, those on whom so much, like the future of the art, depends. —Brad Davis, Poet, teacher, and counselor at Pomfret School
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