Poems Here And Elsewhere

I have researched thousands of poems for this book and selected the best. By best I mean ones that illustrate specific points rather than qualify as the greatest in the canon. The latter is a matter of taste, and my list of the greatest poems is bound to differ from someone else's.

In each chapter, however, you will find plenty of examples from the works of past and present writers. This is meant to give you perspective. You can see how a genre of poetry began, developed and evolved through the ages.

Moreover, poems in the various chapters are so powerful that they represent an anthology of sorts — individual works that, when read in sequence, convey information about the art and craft of poetry. So I have reprinted these works in "mini anthology" sections at the end of chapters to stress points made in the text.

In the first and last sections of the book, poems included in mini anthologies are contemporary, so you can familiarize yourself with the range of ideas and forms popular today. But in the second section, about the mechanics of poetry, I have reprinted poems by both past and contemporary poets. For instance, in the chapters on voice and rhyme (which affects voice), I use only contemporary examples because these best convey current tones of speech. In the chapters on titles, lines and meter, however, I use older works to show the prototypes of these aspects of craft. In chapters on the stanza, I include poems of past and present writers to illustrate a type of progression — how the tools have been sharpened over time.

Thus, if you are reading this book in a workshop or class, you'll have poems enough to analyze. However, by no means should you rely solely on selections in The Art and Craft of Poetry (or any book or anthology, for that matter) to sate your appetite for verse. You should read as much poetry as possible in your free time and consider assembling your own library of books, anthologies and magazines. The typical person invests money in a record, cassette or compact disk collection. Why not poetry?

Finally, keep in mind that your taste in poetry will likely change over the years, just as it probably has in music. When I was a boy, I enjoyed big band swing and then switched to rock and roll, bluegrass, jazz and classical. Now I'm into rap. True, trends have helped to shape part of my taste in music. But the other part developed over time because I needed more sophisticated fare or a certain sound to complement my emotional well-being.

It's the same with poetry. In fact, the first poets to excite me are now considered hack writers whose works, by the way, are not included in this book. I could name them, but that would be unfair, given what I have told you. The point is, don't be embarrassed if someone criticizes the poets who initially inspire you. Tell the critic you are working your way up the great chain of reading.

Nothing is more important than reading in your development as a writer. The more you read, the better able you will be to understand and employ the concepts in The Art and Craft of Poetry.

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