Monthly Archives: July 2013

Reliving Poetry 101

I haven’t blogged about poetry books for a while because I’ve been working my way through a whopper: ‘An Introduction to Poetry’ by XJ Kennedy and Dana Gioia. It’s delightful. It doesn’t speak about form quite as exhaustively as Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode Less Travelled,’ but it’s still pretty thorough and informative, and it also made a start on filling in the gaps in my knowledge of 20th century American free verse.

I especially enjoyed the sections on critical thinking about poetry. I never entirely liked comparative literature classes when I was a student, but the little discussion questions after each poem in this book really tickled me. Probably just nostalgia for my college days, although I was glad not to have to do the essay exercises.

I read quite an old edition (1998); and its age showed in sections like ‘Writing and Researching on the Computer.’ I’d be curious to see if there are later editions, and if so, which poets from the past decades they’ve chosen to include. The selections included in this one appealed to me a lot — I’ll be sorry to take it back to the library.


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I’m in the money! For the first time, the New Statesman are paying me £10 in book tokens for a contrast entry. Exactly a year after my first-ever hon mensh in the same proverb contest (‘Where there’s life there’s phlegm’), I made the finals with two, written before the present heat wave: ‘If you can’t stand the heat, you’ll like it here,’ and ‘The grass is always greener after four solid months of rain.’

So, no, with a total writing career earnings of £10 I won’t be giving up the day job just yet. That Larkinian toad ( will have to squat on my life for a while longer.

But not on my sister Sandy’s! She retired at the end of June, and I’m hoping she’ll soon join me and Susan as a published writer. Of the three of us, she has the best storytelling flair. Wish us luck in going for the Full Bronte.

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