From: Richard Seddon <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Friday, June 08, 2001 8:11 AM
Subject: off line Re: Reading books of poetry
>Books of poetry seem to come in two major types. Single poems and
>I rely upon the author to tell me whether the book is a single poem (I.e.
>"TWL", "Mercian Hymns") or a collection (I,e, "The Works of John Dryden",
>I usually pick up a collection of poetry for one of three reasons;
>a) reference to a specific poem in it for a specific reason ("Mercian
>in Hill's "New and Collected Poems").
>b) reference to the author for a specific reason. (Ricks "OX E V")
>c) non-specific curiosity--(the title is catchy, the cover is attractive,
>etc.---the reason I picked up TWL to start with)
>In case (c) I generally leaf through the book scanning poems at random and
>reading as my scan develops interest. If in the quick 30 second leaf
>through no interest develops the book goes back on the shelf and I probably
>won't look at anything else by that author unless directed as in case a or
>In case a or b I generally satisfy the immediate purpose and then roam
>randomly as in case c but spending much more time with the book.
>In the case of the single poem book I always start with any preface or
>introductory material and then begin with the beginning of the poem.
>In the case of long very fragmented disjointed poems such as "Mercian
>I generally treat them as collections initially but do read the first
>Given my approach to collections of poems, if TWL had been labeled a
>collection then I probably would have read one of the interior sections
>first as my scan would have led me to the middle of the book. I cannot
>recall ever reading the first poem of a collection first unless it was the
>specific poem I was referred to the book for.
>Unless I am directed to a book of poetry for specific reasons my initial
>approach is always very casual. My intellect is in neutral, just ticking
>over. Some minutia has to disturb that laziness. (A title/ an allusion/a
>line drawing/ the graphic presentation of the poem) My brain has to shift
>gears and become engaged with that poem, Poetry for me is an exercise of
>the intellect. It is not a way to pass time. I do not keep a volume of
>poetry by the bed to read before going to sleep. If the editor or author
>poetry does not engage my intellect almost immediately the book goes back
>the shelf. If my eye is caught and the first poem fully engages me I will
>read every poem in the book by that author carefully.
>I picked up Ricks "OX E V" at least 4 times before I purchased it. The
>first time as directed by a friend. The
>next time I glanced more carefully through it. The next more carefully.
>When I found I had spent 20 min with it the last time I bought it. Without
>your initial recommendation I would never have touched it originally.
Once I start randomly selecting poems I will continue that way unless I
learn that the author had some clear motive in the arrangement. I will then
become curious of the motive and read from the first
>From: Marcia Karp <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
>Date: Thursday, June 07, 2001 8:12 PM
>Subject: Reading books of poetry