Compiled by three noted poets, this is an eclectic, stimulating, and informed selection of poets’ remarks on poetry spanning eras, ethnicities, and aesthetics. The 102 selections from nearly as many poets reach back to the Greeks and Romans, then draw on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Sidney, and Milton, on to Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, and Poe, then Hopkins, Yeats, Eliot, Rilke, and Pound, concluding with many of our contemporaries, including Hall, Clifton, Mackey, Kunitz, and Rukeyser.
The book is divided into three sections. “Musing” concerns issues of inspiration, “Making,” issues of craft, from diction to meter to persona and voice, and “Mapping,” the role of poetry and the poet. Headnotes at the beginning of each selection provide background information about the poet and commentary on the significance of the selection. There is also a useful appendix with a listing of essays arranged according to more specific topics. As the poets write in their introduction: “This book was intended to deepen readers’ understanding of age-old poetic ideas while at the same time pointing out new directions for thinking about poetry, juxtaposing the familiar and the strange, reconfiguring old boundaries, and shaking up stereotypes.”
“In my long shelf-life as a poet I have often been struck—amused, amazed, even made thoughtful—by the sharply opposing views of poets. . . . The views of the practitioners were what I was after, not those of the detached and theoretical critics. . . . Perhaps this book will invite the gestation of other texts that will fill in the blanks and expatiate further on the desire of poets to write about writing poems.”
—Maxine Kumin, from the Preface