Beautiful & Pointless

A Guide to Modern Poetry
Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry. Harper: HarperCollins. 2011. c.224p. ISBN 9780061673450. $25.99. LIT
In this study of modern 20th-century poetry, Orr (poetry columnist, New York Times Book Review) does not focus on the poets or the meaning of what they wrote. He discusses the importance of building a relationship with the literary form itself, with the view that how people actually read poetry helps form that relationship. He recognizes that a reader might be confounded by modern poetry. Using the first person, Orr communicates directly, beginning by pointing out that people are often surprised that contemporary (here used interchangeably with "modern") poetry actually exists: "We're talking, after all, about an art form that currently occupies a position in the popular consciousness somewhere between lute playing and crewel embroidery." He uses concepts that matter in the world of poetry—the personal, the political, ambition, and form—and exhibits abundant humor, charm, and insight. How can one not admire someone who writes, "...each chapter will be idiosyncratic and unfair"?
VERDICT There is no index or bibliography, so this work is of less value as a teaching text; instead, it's to be delved into in small bites. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy literature or poetry or who just want to learn more about them.
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