When I think about learning the fundamentals to understand poetry, I think of a typical textbook wherein each chapter first lists the objectives, then the actual content, and finally the practice/reflection questions at the end. Another idea I think of for understanding poetry is an annotated anthology of poetry.
The Meaning of Modern Poetry by John Clark Pratt takes a different approach entirely. He jumps right in with questions for the reader and lists multiple choice answers underneath. With each answer, it lists a page number that the reader flips to to see if he/she was right or wrong and to read an explanation of why the answer was right or wrong.
It’s basically a textbook version of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.
Here’s a picture of what I’m describing:
Apparently they have a whole line of “TutorText” books like this one that all follow this pattern to some extent.
It reminds me of what a computer course on poetry might look like. This book achieves interaction and a sort of dialogue between the writer and reader.
The writer, Pratt, is often blunt and occasionally harsh in his responses to the reader’s chosen answer. Here’s an example of his response:
“Sorry, you have selected an answer which is the substance to almost every war poem ever written, but you have not examined this poem closely enough.”
After explaining why the answer is not correct he says:
“You must try to read “Arms and the Boy” as if you had never heard of the subject under discussion, and you must give the poem undivided attention.
Return to page 37, read the poem again while considering only the material within it, and select another answer.”
This book provides interest because it looks at form and goes further to discuss the very intrinsic meaning of a poem.
I’m still working through the book, but what I have read so far has been informative. The book also looks at some modern poets like William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
This book was published in 1962, so it doesn’t speak much to contemporary poetry. But it can still be a fun way to study poetry.
If don’t know much about modern poetry and want to get a bit of an understanding, visit amazon.com for this book that is currently selling for only $3.34 + tax. Don’t hesitate too long — there are only 7 copies available now and only a few at that low price. Get it now.