Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hitting the Books

 It's that wonderful time of year, or at least getting close, when the doors of learning swing open for eager minds. With that in my mind, I'd like to mention two books that deal with the subject of poetry.

The first, "Beautiful and Pointless", I alluded to in my May blog. The author, David Orr, is the poetry critic for the New York Times. He termed his book his "peculiar project". I agree with him in that it is an odd mixture of very analytical, technical moments sprinkled with flights of fancy...i.e humor and lyricism. It is always dense in the sense of richness of thought...albeit at times disjointed.

His chapter headings speak to its content. He addresses the differences and similarities between the personal poem and the political one. He even expresses the idea that poetry can create a change in opinion as it edges toward politics. A powerful idea!

He then launches into a pretty technical analysis of form, but not without creating a category of his own called Resemblance. Curious? I was too.

He then talks about the poet in terms of personal ambition and the need to be in the spotlight or fishbowl.

The best chapter for me was the final chapter "Why Bother?". Why spend time reading or writing poems when we could be doing something else---anything else? I recommend reading Orr's book to find out his take on that. Trust me when I say it won't be simple and it won't be short, but it will hold your attention.

The second book "Unless It Moves The Human Heart" by the distinguished author Roger Rosenblatt records a running dialogue between Roger and his students during one semester of his writing class. It flows like a lively conversation, which it basically is ---with asides from Rosenblatt, the teacher, who distills the craft and inspires the art of writing. It is a small book--- written by a teacher with a large intelligence and a generous, passionate spirit. I wish you all teachers of this caliber as you pass through the swinging doors.