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James Fenton's An Introduction to English Poetry offers a master class for both the reader and writer of poetry. Simply and elegantly written and discussing the work of poets as wide ranging as W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Tennyson, Kipling, Milton and Blake, it covers all varieties of poetic practice in English. 'It is hard to imagine a beginner who could not learn from [this book]. If you know a young poet, give them this' The Times Literary Supplement

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780141004396
ISBN-10: 0141004398
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 8mm)
Pages: 144
Imprint: Penguin Books Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 29-May-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions


UK Kirkus Review » Aimed at reader and writer alike, this interesting and eminently readable book explores the history and form of poetry in the English language over the last five centuries. A concise study, it provides an overview of what is a complex and potentially daunting subject, and, with its useful glossary, is equally valuable as a reference work. In an approachable and down-to-earth style, Fenton, who is both teacher and poet himself, tackles technical areas such as meter, rhyme and form using a wide range of examples from 'real' poems rather than 'meaningless or flippant demonstration models'. He does not, however, become bogged down in technicalities, constantly reassuring his reader that 'great poetry does not have to be technically intricate' and that 'for the most part... the handling of rhythm and form is instinctive rather than codified'. Nor, indeed, does he restrict himself to examples from what might conventionally be described as 'great' poetry, being just as happy to quote from lyrics such as 'I've Got You Under My Skin' as from Shakespeare, or to discuss Leonardo diCaprio's interpretation of the iambic pentameter in the film of Romeo and Juliet. One of the great strengths of the book is Fenton's ability to explain his point in a simple but uncondescending way as, for example, when he comments on the appropriateness of the Italian word 'stanza' meaning room; it is 'sufficient for its own purposes, but it does not constitute a house. A stanza has the same sense of containment, without being complete or independent.' If there is a weakness, it is that the book does not go far enough, being largely concerned with the technicalities of form and failing to deal with matters such as imagery and the poetic devices of simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia and assonance, for example. No doubt the author would argue that these are not within the ambit of the book, but so interesting is his subject and so attractive his style that the reader is left wanting more. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - James Fenton

Until recently James Fenton was Professor of Poetry at Oxford. A former political journalist (he was south-east Asia correspondent for the Independent), he also served as drama critic for the Sunday Times for seven years, and writes regularly on artfor the New Yorker. He has published four books of poems in Penguin. He lives outside Oxford and in London.

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