A Poetry Primer (Classic Reprint)
Excerpt from A Poetry Primer
This book is designed to help students in the early stages of their study, when poetry is like something behind locked doors for which they have no key. It is meant to be helpful particularly in introductory courses Where considerable poetry is read, and where, without devoting too much time to this, students are required to know something of the elements Of prosody. It is written simply, therefore, in the hope that once it is in the hands of students, they can teach themselves; it makes little effort to consider matters of chief interest to the advanced student and the critic; and it intro duces no innovations. It might be well if all the teachers and critics and writers of poetry would meet and settle once for all the ques tions of poetic and prosodic terminology, probably scrapping the present terminology, and even the present system of teaching prosody. But in view of the swiftness with which proponents and opponents of any small change rush to battle, it is unlikely that such a convention will be held this year; and until it is held, it seems best to employ the terms used for some hundreds of years Without material damage to the quality of English poetry or to its appreciation by those not writing it.
Experience shows that many students need to know not only something about rhythm and metre and stanzas and feet, but how to read a poem intelligently. I have, therefore, added a very ele mentary section, included so far as I know in no handbook of this sort, on how to study the content of a poem. And I have tried to deal as fully as possible in so short a work with such troublesome forms as the sonnet, the ode, and free verse, in order to make these as clear as possible to students.
For helpful comments on the manuscript, I am indebted to Professors Alma Blount, C. F. Harrold, and H. W. Reninger; and for permission to use some of their verse to illustrate a number of forms, to a number Of my former students.
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