How to Read (and Write About) Poetry – Second Edition
  • Publication Date: December 15, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781554815104 / 155481510X
  • 250 pages; 6" x 9"

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How to Read (and Write About) Poetry – Second Edition

  • Publication Date: December 15, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781554815104 / 155481510X
  • 250 pages; 6" x 9"

How to Read (and Write About) Poetry invites students and others curious about poetry to join the critical conversation about a genre many find a little mystifying, even intimidating. In an accessible, engaging manner, this book introduces the productive questions, reading strategies, literary terms, and secondary research tips that will empower readers to participate in literary analysis. Holbrook explicates a number of poems, initiating readers into critical discourse while highlighting key poetic terms. These useful terms are fully defined in a glossary at the back of the book. The explications are followed by selections of related works, so the book thus offers what amounts to a brief anthology, ideal for a poetry unit or introductory class on poetry and poetics. Readers can bring some of the new skills they’ve acquired to these selections, which range across periods and styles. A chapter on meter illuminates the rhythmic dimension of poetry and guides readers through methods of scansion.

The second edition includes a fresh selection of poems, including works by Langston Hughes, Anne Sexton, Valerie Martinez, and others, and updated MLA citation guidance for 2021.


“Susan Holbrook’s How to Read (and Write About) Poetry is a terrific textbook for helping students become more confident and careful readers of poetry. Offering a selection of primary texts, from Shakespeare to Harryette Mullen, William Blake to Gertrude Stein, this collection also offers a selection of strategies for and examples of the practice of reading poetry. Holbrook’s engaging writing style and judicious groupings of poems offer something for every student and every instructor.” — Deborah Mix, Ball State University

How to Use This Book
Introduction: What Makes Poetry Poetry and Why Are We So Afraid of It?

Poem Discussion One: Sonnet 130, by William Shakespeare

  • More Sonnets by William Shakespeare
    • Sonnet 18
    • Sonnet 20
    • Sonnet 73
    • Sonnet 116

Poem Discussion Two: Harlem Dancer, by Claude McKay

  • More Poems by Writers of the Harlem Renaissance
    • The Castaways, Claude McKay
    • Tableau, Countee Cullen
    • The Weary Blues, Langston Hughes
    • Letter to My Sister, Anne Spencer
    • A Mona Lisa, Angelina Weld Grimké

Poem Discussion Three: I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed, by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  • More Modern and Contemporary Sonnets
    • Poetics Against the Angel of Death, Phyllis Webb
    • Nothing in That Drawer, Ron Padgett
    • Sonnet #15, Alice Notley
    • so’net 1, Paul Dutton
    • Sonnet for Bonnie, Darren Wershler-Henry
    • Dim Lady, Harryette Mullen
    • LXXIII, Sonnet L’Abbé

Poem Discussion Four: The Dance, by William Carlos Williams

  • More Ekphrastic Poems
    • Young Sycamore, William Carlos Williams
    • Venus Transiens, Amy Lowell
    • Preciosilla, Gertrude Stein
    • Why I Am Not a Painter, Frank O’Hara
    • The Starry Night, Anne Sexton
    • from Pictograms from the Interior of B.C., Fred Wah
    • Granite Weaving, Valerie Martínez

Poem Discussion Five: Ode on a Grecian Urn, by John Keats

  • More Odes, Apostrophes, Addresses
    • To Night, Charlotte Smith
    • A Supermarket in California, Allen Ginsberg
    • July Man, Margaret Avison
    • To My Twenties, Kenneth Koch
    • Late One Night, Margaret Christakos
    • Winnipeg, you’re so pretty, Molly Cross-Blanchard

Poem Discussion Six: The Tyger, by William Blake

  • More Poems about Animals
    • The Lamb, William Blake
    • The Flea, John Donne
    • A narrow Fellow in the Grass, Emily Dickinson
    • A DOG, Gertrude Stein
    • The Shark, E.J. Pratt
    • Bird-Witted, Marianne Moore
    • THE ARK, Nasser Hussain

Poem Discussion Seven: r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r, by E.E. Cummings

  • More Concrete Poems
    • Easter Wings, George Herbert
    • l(a, E.E. Cummings
    • Forsythia, Mary Ellen Solt
    • Cycle No. 22, bpNichol
    • In Medias Res, Michael McFee
    • Love Song, Margaret Christakos
    • Flattening spirits … , Sachiko Murakami
    • Find Hope, Simina Banu

Poem Discussion Eight: Daddy, by Sylvia Plath

  • More Poems “for the ear”
    • Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll
    • God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins
    • The Cat and the Saxophone (2 A.M.), Langston Hughes
    • at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989, Lucille Clifton
    • Blah-Blah, Harryette Mullen
    • Zong! #1, M. NourbeSe Philip
    • Ravine, Louis Cabri

Poem Discussion Nine: kitchenette building, by Gwendolyn Brooks

  • More Poems Displaying the Poetic Force of Syntax
    • When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer, Walt Whitman
    • In a Station of the Metro, Ezra Pound
    • ASPARAGUS, Gertrude Stein
    • since feeling is first, E.E. Cummings
    • Rolling Motion, Erin Mouré
    • monday, Lisa Robertson
    • Winter, Mark Truscott

Poem Discussion Ten: The Three Emilys, by Dorothy Livesay

  • More Feminist Poems
    • Prologue, Anne Bradstreet
    • In an Artist’s Studio, Christina Rossetti
    • Sheltered Garden, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)
    • Blues Spiritual for Mammy Prater, Dionne Brand
    • Body Politics, Louise Bernice Halfe
    • I Wish I Had More Sisters, Brenda Shaughnessy

A Brief Guide to Meter
How to Write about Poetry
Glossary of Poetic Terms

Susan Holbrook is a poet, critic, and Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor.

  • • MLA citation style has been updated to reflect 2021 changes
  • • Provides a fresh, contemporary, and diverse selection of poems
  • • Witty and entertaining writing style
  • • Helpful and very concise section on how to write essays about poetry
  • • Includes student essays in draft form, with editing markup, and in complete and polished form
  • • Incorporates colour images to accompany poems linked to the artworks