Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry, edited by E.O. Parrott

Just a quick capsule review of this book, which is more of a reference guide to a wide variety of poetic forms, both well known and not-so well known. Parrott has assembled a collection of – and this is a generous description – “light verse” exemplifying various modes of poetry, from the haiku and sestina to the glosa (here called “glose”) and the nonet.

Early on, How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry includes cutsey-poo poems that distill classic works from Blake, Poe, Wordsworth and Tennyson into shorter and more digestible bits, which will be offensive to any of us who actually took the time and effort to read the original work. Thankfully, the book does get better as it goes along, delving into more complicated and obscure forms such as the virelai (both ancien and nouveau) and univocalics. These help show off the chops of Parrott's contributors.

It is good to be reminded every now and then what a heroic couplet is or that such a thing as a limeraiku exists (you guessed it: it’s a combination of a limerick and a haiku), and for this How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry is worthwhile. But for the most part, this book takes a daft and dippy approach to what many of consider to be a very reverent and important art form.

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