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Formal Poetry

Rhyming is not a prerequisite for poetry. In fact, rhyming poetry was popular for a relatively short period in a relatively specific part of the world. Poetic forms are generally culturally defined, and more often involve cadence, word play, and organization of themes. The ancient Hebrews emphasized repetition and contrast, the Japanese liked syllabic symmetry, and the Anglo-Saxons made extensive use of alliteration and assonance.

Asserting that one form of poetry is better than another is no more than snobbery, but to claim the opposite (that true poetry has no form) is equally unreasonable and narrow. Of course poetry has form: how else could it communicate?

Understanding poetry's different modes is an important step toward understanding poems themselves. Do you have to know that a Shakespearean sonnet always has three quatrains and a couplet to enjoy it? No, but it helps, as does knowing that the final two lines constitute a volta, a shift in attitude or imagery toward resolution of the problem presented in the previous stanzas.

It also helps to know not all sonnets follow this form, and that a sonnet isn't really a sonnet if every line isn't exactly ten syllables long, following a stressed/unstressed pattern known as iambic pentameter. In turn, iambic pentameter is an important term to know if you plan on writing a villanelle, since its lines follow the same scheme. The interrelatedness of terminology can be both helpful and frustrating, but wallowing around in a sea of roundels, enjambment, slant rhyme, and dactyllic hexameter will be nothing but frustrating unless you learn what all those words mean.

Some people think it's not worth the effort and never bother. Which is fine, if you don't intend to read or woo women. If poems only existed to put words together in audibly attractive ways, such a dismissive attitude would be fine. If, however, poems are messages to the soul, being able to interpret them and identify one type from another becomes much more valuable.

One could even say imperative. Most of the world's greatest poets have adopted the popular or accepted forms of their cultural context, and whether they were aware of it or not when writing, these forms influenced not only the messages, but the way those messages were expressed. Certainly, one can enjoy Keats without understanding all the technical elementsin his work; but one can enjoy Keats even more when those elements are understood.

We carry books that explain terms, books that equip readers for interpretation and analysis, even books that help you write your own poems. More importantly, we carry books of poems by the practitioners of the elements and forms discussed in those instructional works. In the end, there's no absolutely wrong way to read poetry, just wrong ways not to read it.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

 

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78 Items found Print
Alfred Noyes Collected Poems in One Volume
by Alfred Noyes
for 6th-Adult
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry
by Tony Barnstone & Chou Ping, eds.
from Anchor Books
for 9th-12th grade
in Poetry Anthologies (Location: APO-05A)
$14.45
Annotated Milton
by John Milton
from Bantam Books
for 11th-Adult
in 17th Century Literature (Location: CLT-17C)
$5.91
Buck in the Snow and Other Poems
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
from Harper & Brothers
for 10th-Adult
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Canterbury Tales
Penguin Classics
by Geoffrey Chaucer (edited by Nevill Coghill)
from Penguin Classics
Medieval Poetry for 8th-12th grade
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$9.35
Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer (edited by Peter Beidler)
from Bantam Books
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$5.09
Charge of the Light Brigade & Other Poems
Dover Thrift Editions
by Alfred Tennyson
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$3.40 $2.50 (2 in stock)
Child's Garden of Verses
by Robert Louis Stevenson & Tasha Tudor
from Simon and Schuster
Poetry for 1st-5th grade
in Poetry for Children (Location: APO-06A)
$16.99
Child's Garden of Verses
by Robert Louis Stevenson & Tasha Tudor
from Rand McNally
Poetry for 1st-5th grade
in Poetry for Children (Location: APO-06A)
Children of Hurin
by J. R. R. Tolkien
from Houghton Mifflin
Fantasy for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
$12.71
Collected Lyrics of Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
from Harper & Row
for 11th-Adult
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
by Edgar Allan Poe
from Modern Library
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$20.40
Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats
by John Keats
from Modern Library
for 11th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$13.60
Complete Poems of Christopher Marlowe
by Christopher Marlowe
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in Renaissance & Reformation Literature (Location: CLT-REN)
$2.13
Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
by Emily Dickinson
from Little, Brown & Company
for 7th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$18.69
Complete Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
from Penguin Classics
for 9th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$15.30
Complete Sonnets
Dover Thrift Editions
by William Shakespeare
from Dover Publications
Lyrical Poetry for 9th-Adult
in Renaissance & Reformation Literature (Location: CLT-REN)
$2.13 $1.20 (2 in stock)
Dante La Vita Nuova
by Dante Alighieri
from Dover Publications
Medieval Poetry for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$1.28 $0.80 (2 in stock)
Dante's Inferno
by Dante Alighieri (translation by Anthony Esolen)
from Modern Library
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$11.90
Dante's Paradise
by Dante Alighieri (translation by Anthony Esolen)
from Modern Library
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$11.90
Dante's Purgatory
by Dante Alighieri (translation by Anthony Esolen)
from Modern Library
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$12.75
Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri (translation by John Ciardi)
from New American Library
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$17.85
Divine Comedy I
Penguin Classics
by Dante Alighieri (translation by Dorothy Sayers)
from Penguin Classics
Medieval Allegory/Poetic Epic for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$12.75
Divine Comedy II
Penguin Classics
by Dante Alighieri (translation by Dorothy Sayers)
from Penguin Classics
Medieval Allegory/Poetic Epic for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$11.05
Divine Comedy III
Penguin Classics
by Dante Alighieri (translation by Dorothy Sayers & Barbara Reynolds)
from Penguin Classics
Medieval Allegory/Poetic Epic for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$11.90
Divine Comedy set
Penguin Classics
by Dante Alighieri (translation by Dorothy Sayers)
from Penguin Putnam
Medieval Allegory/Poetic Epic for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$35.70
Divine Comedy Volume 1: Inferno
by Dante
Revised from Penguin Classics
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$5.60 (1 in stock)
Dr. Faustus
by Christopher Marlowe
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in Renaissance & Reformation Literature (Location: CLT-REN)
$2.13
Early Poems
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$2.98
Elfin Knight
by Edmund Spenser & Toby Sumpter
from Canon Press
for 9th-Adult
in Renaissance & Reformation Literature (Location: CLT-REN)
$17.00
English Lyric Poems
by C. Day Lewis
from Appleton-Century-Crofts
for 9th-Adult
$3.00 (1 in stock)
English Romantic Poetry
Dover Thrift Editions
by Stanley Appelbaum, editor
from Dover Publications
for Adult
in Poetry Anthologies (Location: APO-05A)
$6.00 $3.50 (2 in stock)
English Victorian Poetry
by Paul Negri, ed.
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in Poetry Anthologies (Location: APO-05A)
$3.83
Essay on Man and Other Poems
Dover Thrift Editions
by Alexander Pope
from Dover Publications
for Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$2.00 (2 in stock)
Favorite Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
from Dover Publications
for 9th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$2.13 $1.50 (1 in stock)
Gawain Poet Complete Works
by Anonymous
from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$20.00
Goblin Market and Other Poems
by Christina Rossetti
from Dover Publications
for 10th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$2.13
Idylls of the King
by Alfred Tennyson
from Signet Classics
Epic Poetry for 8th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$6.76
Idylls of the King
by Alfred Tennyson
from Penguin Classics
Epic Poetry for 8th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$13.60
John and Charles Wesley: Selected Writings and Hymns
by Charles Wesley, John Wesley
1st edition from Paulist Press
for 10th-Adult
$4.00 (1 in stock)
John Brown's Body
by Stephen Vincent Benét
from Holt, Rinehart and Winston
for 10th-Adult
Pulitzer Prize Winner
$4.00 (1 in stock)
John Donne's Poetry
by John Donne
2nd edition from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 11th-Adult
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Major Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
from Oxford University
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$16.11
Major Works of Lord Byron
by George Gordon, Lord Byron
from Oxford University
for 10th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$16.11
Major Works of William Wordsworth
by William Wordsworth
from Oxford University
for 9th-Adult
in Poetry (Location: APO-05A)
$16.11
Marriage of Heaven and Hell
by William Blake
Facsimile from Oxford University
for 11th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$3.60 (1 in stock)
Mountain Men
by John G. Neihardt
from University of Nebraska
for Adult
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Narrative Poems
by C. S. Lewis
from Harcourt
Narrative Poetry for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
$13.56
Narrative Poems
by C. S. Lewis
Reprint from HarperOne
Narrative Poetry for 9th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
$12.74
Ogden Nash Set - 4 Volumes
by Ogden Nash
from Little, Brown & Company
for 9th-Adult
$5.00 (1 in stock)
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