Cover Image: How a Poem Moves

How a Poem Moves

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Member Reviews

This book was so much fun to read; it is a collection of essays that help readers who are afraid of poetry or feel like they can't read it and 'get it.'  I loved reading this, even though I enjoy reading poetry because it reminded me of how personal poetry can be and how everyone can work through pieces and find their own pieces of understanding as well as appreciation.
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This wonderful, accessible book breaks down the what, why and how of poetry - forms, language, meanings, translation, ideas, etc. - using example poems and easy to read essays from Sol, a poet and professor. THESE THINGS are what I'm trying to explain in my reviews of many recent books by "Instagram Poets" and their ilk - why simply typing sentence fragments is NOT poetry, why it requires MORE. I want to send a copy of "How a Poem Moves" to all of them, to their publishers, and to their fans. Poetry is such an amazing art form, it deserves appreciation, and this book is a great introduction into why and how.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest review.

I have to admit that I was afraid of poetry, or maybe more aptly put I didn't understand poetry. What was the big deal? I now believe I a starting to understand. There is so much more than I understood. I want to learn, to grow, and understand now. All of these essays, each one on a different poem, are based on Adam Sol's blog. If poetry scares you or fascinates you, this is a worthy read. I know I am going to go out and try and write bad poetry now.
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How a Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers Afraid of Poetry by Adam Sol is a collection of essays on poems. Sol is the author of three previous books of poetry, including Jeremiah, Ohio, a novel in poems that was shortlisted for Ontario's Trillium Award for Poetry; and Crowd of Sounds, which won the award in 2004. He has published fiction, scholarly essays, and reviews.

Although there are some, or many, people who are afraid of poetry it is an important part of literature. They fear it is too complicated, too unmanly, or even recall hidden fears of English teachers. This fear can be conquered in one of two ways. First, the world can embrace Instagram sensation "poets" who write platitudes and poems that sound like they were pulled out of a middle of a song -- short, generic, trite, and cliche. Second, we embrace poetry, take constructive lessons, use patience, and explore the poem.

Sol is part of the second solution; the one I prefer. Rather than memorizing a sonnet or research scholarly criticism on a poem, Sol presents the poem, breaks it down, and explains the verse. He guides the reader into the secrets the poem holds. Sol explains the style and how, like the title states, the poem moves. Some of the poets are people he was taught by or made an impression him. Others are presented to show how a poem articulates feelings, invites us to praise (odes), changes while we read it, or even mourns. The poems offer a path and what we take from them forms the journey. Easy reading and easy to understand explanations allow the reader to gain confidence in what they read and hopefully read further poetry on their own.
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This intrigued me. I’m not afraid of poetry, but it isn’t for me. Not really. Not modern poetry and not American or even English language one. I love Shakespeare. I can appreciate Dickinson. But that can’t be it, there’s so much more. And in order to justify thinking of myself as a not merely voracious, but also a diverse reader, I decided to check out if this is something worth including into my repertoire. This book is based on a series of blogs by a poetry loving teacher and reading it is very much like taking an exceptionally lively entertaining class on a subject you didn’t think would be of interest. Adam Sol’s taste leans to the precisely sort of modern abstractly (no beloved rhyming iambic pentameter to be found) structured poems I don’t care for, but he takes them apart so cleverly, analyzing the language, the rhythms, the themes, the word choices and the meanings…that it’s a delight to behold all the same. The man is like a poem detective. And reading this you get to play along, follow the clues, decipher the coded messages and so on. Which is a lot of fun. I may not appreciate poetry enough, but linguistics I find fascinating, so for me this was more of a linguistic exercise. And I would say Adam Sol succeeded in his mission by indeed helping a reluctant poetry reader become well versed in verse. Although it didn’t make me want to read poetry (in fact the first poem I liked in this collection wasn’t until 40% in), it made me fairly confident that if I did, I’d be able to figure out what it’s about. So now I can consider myself edified and my choice to not read much poetry an informed one. I mean, essentially poetry is just another form of telling a story, a different medium, and not the one I prefer on daily basis, but one to appreciate on a special occasion. This book, though, was lovely. A terrific example of how an author’s enthusiasm for and  knowledge of a subject combined with erudite enjoyable presentation can surpass your expectations and engage your attention more so than the subject itself might. For a work of nonfiction that’s quite an accomplishment, it even read quickly, maybe 180 minutes. Long for a lesson maybe, but worth the time.  Recommended for fans of literary dissections. Thanks Netgalley.
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