Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fun with Verse

How to Be Well-Versed in PoetryHow to Be Well-Versed in Poetry 
by E.O. Parrott

"Wake from out my midnight ramble.
Life is just a massive gambol."
-  Bill Greenwell (after Dylan Thomas)

This wonderful book is both an anthology of poetry and an introduction to poetic forms. Apparently it is one of a series of similar literary compilations, all edited by Mr. Parrot. He spent many years as a teacher of English and General Studies, and reminds me of the character Hector in Alan Bennett's play, The History Boys, because of his eclectic taste as demonstrated in this book (and presumably his other collections).

Useful as a reference through the inclusion of all known poetic forms and not a few unknown (to me), it is a review for those, like myself, that are rusty on the details of the form of poetry if not the substance. While rhyming and meter and stanzas are encountered there are sections of poetic fancies, light verse, terse verse and more.  The forms are demonstrated in all manner of ways, one being the parody like that in the epigraph above that mocks the famous "Fern Hill" of Dylan Thomas.  
The chapters begin with a selection of poems whose subject is poetry itself, with verses like:

"Poetry the pleasure
Madness and treasure."
"So remember: the poetic Muse
It is a sure-fire cure for the blues;
A verse a day
Keeps the hearse away."

This should provide brief evidence that poetry can be fun for all who love words or at least wonder about them. The delight is in learning about the form and being of poetry while experiencing rhymes from a gathering of contemporary poets who provide exceptionally entertaining evidence of the magic of verse.  Often with tongue-in-cheek he gathers poems and poetic bits of verse with both demonstration and entertainment in mind. The result is a book of poetry presented in its most entertaining form. For that and for the inspirational value to encourage me to expand my poetry horizons I am grateful.

If you like the classics or Proust you may find the following "Distichs" delightful:

"A tea-soaked madeleine consumed by Proust,
Mon Dieu! What recollections that unloosed."

"She launched a thousand ships, no less, from little craft to whalers;
You'd say that Helen must have got on very well with sailors."
- Stanley Sharpless

View all my reviews


Brian Joseph said...

I really need to read this and may do so soon. My knowledge and understanding of poetic forms is sadly lacking. Since I read a fair amount of poetry and wish to read more something like this would be essential to get me up to speed.

James said...

Thanks for your comment. This is a good anthology of examples. Depending on your interest you may want to consider books that provide more commentary on poetic forms and other aspects of poetry.
There are many books to choose from but two that I have found helpful are How to Read a Poem by Burton Raffel (Meridian Books, 1984), and How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch (Harcourt Brace, 1999).

Lucy said...

This sounds great! I'd really like to refresh my poetry knowledge... I had to learn a lot of the details for school a few years ago, but I haven't really had to recall them for a while. Another great book to make poetry more accessible is The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry.

Lucy from Tolstoy Therapy

James said...


Thanks for the recommendation. I love reading Stephen Fry.