The Making of a Poem
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The Making of a Poem

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,047 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Poetry's Ingredients: Mark Strand and Eavan Boland Explore Form

Explaining beauty is hard work. But distinguished poets Mark Strand and Eavan Boland have produced a clear, super-helpful book that unravels part of the mystery of great poems through an engaging exploration of poetic structure. Strand and Boland begin by promising to "look squarely at some of the headaches" of

Paperback, 366 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2000)
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This wonderful book came my way as required reading in a Poetry class in college. Our professor was the best kind of MFA-type instructor, himself a great poet. Through this book, he introduced us to a variety of poetic forms and had us attempt them. The class structure extended out from the book format. It was one of the most rewarding courses I ever took.

As textbooks go, this one’s a gem, certainly one of the best constructed anthologies that the Norton Gods have ever published for us little pe...more
An excellent, accessible introduction to poetic forms. Deals more with the historical use of the form than the contemporary, but still a must-have for poets today who are experimenting with inherited forms.
Persephone Abbott
I don't know why I bought this book, by this I mean what did I expect to mentally obtain? I like poetry, I even write poetry or attempt to write poetry. I suppose I thought that I'd learn something about poetry and honestly I looked and looked. (The poems in the book speak eloquently for themselves.) I saw poems I had never before met and I was pleased to make their visiting acquaintance while they were on Norton's Anthology World Tour. But I began to ask myself why I didn't like this book as I...more
The poem selections are mostly good, and the lists of each form's attributes are adequate, but the sections of introductory and critical text in each chapter are nearly useless, and poorly written to a baffling degree.

Confused, sloppy syntax:
"He would die at the age of thirty, executed for no real reason by Henry VIII, except that he advised his sister to become the king's mistress and for some minor offenses."

Broad and unsupported claims, non sequitur:
"Even as a useful, witty, and musical unit...more
It tries too hard to be two things at once. It has a decent collection of some poems but not enough to make it an anthology. It has a short explanation of the poetic forms but not enough to provide any true depth or insight. I like, however, that the author has taken his time to find plenty examples of villanelles, sestinas, and a couple other rare structures.
This book has its positives and negatives. It is very nice to have one that goes over all different forms. It also goes through a nice explanation of changes in form over time. The two downsides are that, one, its examples are limited in what parts of the history they show and, two, The description of the different forms is not always as well explained as it could be. It was not hard for me to piece it together, but, for anyone looking at poetry for the first time, certain things could easily be...more
I haven't completely finished this one, but I really like the way it's laid out. A great reference for poetic forms. It has the technical aspects of each form, a history of it, how it is being used in a contemporary context, and examples of the form from its beginning to the present. I like having a good sampling of examples, so you can really get a feel for what the form can express and how. I would really like to own this one.
John Struloeff
A wonderful, comprehensive anthology of form poetry. I used it in this semester's Advanced Poetry Writing course, and it's worked very well. The range of examples in each form is very good. Each form (elegy, ballad, sonnet, etc.) has an overview of the formal requirements, a brief history of the form, a brief essay on the form in contemporary poetry, samples poems in chronological order, and a brief case study.
Jun 07, 2008 Ed rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Very well done technical manual on forms and structures of poetry, probably as useful for working poets as for students or critics. Terms are clearly defined, plenty of examples, a good book to have nearby when reading (or, I would imagine, writing) poetry.
Rochelle Jewel  Shapiro
Mar 20, 2008 Rochelle Jewel Shapiro rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Poets
I would never swap this book. It's not that you can't find "how-to's" of forms everywhere, but the choices of poems that Mark Strand made to illustrate each form opens the heart and intellect simultaneously. A great inspiration!
I couldn't connect with this book. I really need contemporary examples, or have the author explain to me whats going on. I still value you it as a reference point, but i did not enjoy working through this!
A nice collection of poetry forms, with examples heavily weighted towards modern poetry.
There is a very small amount of commentary, though I think the collection would have benefited from more.
It wasn't too great at telling you how to analyze poetry. However, the collection and range of poems partly makes up for it.
I will never be a poet and I know it.
Parrish Lantern
In the introductory statement the writers say this book is intended to answer those basic questions such as how does a sonnet work, what is a Sestina & what rules govern it, how many lines make up a Villanelle & what is it’s rhyme scheme? To do this they have traced the history of the various forms, in many cases back to the peasant origins and work songs of the countryside or the Balladeers who sung stories, spun the tales & spread the news through their communities and out to a wid...more
John Nooney
The idea of this book, to introduce you to, define, and give examples of various forms of poetry is a good, solid idea. The execution of the idea is nothing special.

Each chapter in the book discusses a different form of poetry: Sestina, Villanelle, Sonnet, etc. The chapter begins with a very brief history of the form, and a brief guide to the form (number of lines in each stanza, number of syllables in each line, rhyming structure. Then, each chapter gives a dozen or so examples of the form.

Boland and Strand should have been able to do better. The selections are at times shaky (no Spenserian sonnets?) and at times revelatory, but the editorial apparatus is slight and the technical descriptions need supplemenation. We're not talking about an The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics-level erudition required, but this book runs the risk of speaking just enough to seem like they're saying nothing at all. A good model would be the Poems for the Millennium, Vol. 1: Modern and...more
An excellent primer for those just entering the realm of poetry and needing clarification of forms, especially. Also a great motivator for the experienced poet, with worthwhile examples from seasoned and respected poets.
Lesley Lawson Botez
Mar 21, 2014 Lesley Lawson Botez rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: novice and confirmed poets
Recommended to Lesley by: Kingston University Creative Writing MY
I'm new to poetry. This book is a good base to start from. It covers all forms of poetry with history and examples. I produced my first villanelle after reading it.
This is ok. I like the format very much: brief overview of the form, brief history and context, followed by example poems and one closer analysis. I liked the range of poems too.

Three stars because I found the actual blithering about how poetry is the ~key to the soul~ etc annoying and off-putting.
This works perfectly fine as an anthology but the criticism offered by the authors is somewhat of a hit and miss. If you have long deferred looking at structured poetry because your first encounter with it made it sound all very rules-y, this anthology will help you change that viewpoint by making it clear that the poetic form is as much a mood setting factor as the actual words. The best argument for this is in the many wonderful poems collected under each chapter. Personal favs so far include...more
I was disappointed with some features (more appropriately, the lack thereof) of this anthology. Strand and Boland's introductions proved vaguely useful and blatantly sloppy, offering neither strong exposition, nor commentary on each form. In presentation, too, the volume begs improvement. I was surprised that the poems weren't dated, and considered breaking works across pages unnecessary in a collection this size. Really, I could only (largely) appreciate the poetry compiled, and the basics and...more
Bill Gray
This book is pretty much a textbook, a good textbook. If you want to teach yourself form, this book will do it, and provides good poems as exemplars. A book to browse, and a book that bears study if you choose.
Linda Trott
What I love about this book is that it pinpoints a form, across time and gives you a view of the variety of ways that one can approach that form. There is a brief and powerful introduction for each form and a well thought out chapter that follows.

I did not choose to be an English major in my undergrad work, so this highly suggested title for one of my MFA poetry workshops has helped/is helping me to fill in what I missed as an undergrad.
Although the poems in this anthology have been selected with care, the descriptions Strand and Boland give of each poetic form are rather mediocre. Also, some annotation would have been nice, particularly in regards to the Middle English texts.

I had to read this for a class; but as far as collections go, most of its poems are heavily anthologized, so it'd be easy find similar content bound up in a more attractive package.
Abbi Dion
Really interesting introduction by Eavan Boland. Wonderful selection of poems, including "Rain" by Edward Thomas and "The Shrinking Lonely Sestine" by Miller Williams and Janet Lewis' "Remembered Morning" and Susan Prospere's "Heart of the Matter" (which appeared in the New Yorker in a different draft) and "Child Burial" by Paula Meehan, and so on and so on...
Nicola Sullivan
As a bit of a poetry beginner, I appreciated the explanations of the different types of poems, and enjoyed reading several poems of each type. I would have liked more commentary from the authors to help bring things to life a little more. At times I found it a bit dry reading but on the whole it was a useful introduction to poetry and to some great poets.
This was one of my first books on poetic forms. I carried it around everywhere in college and I still have my tattered copy. It's a treasure trove of memorable poems (some favorites include "Yes" by Muriel Rukeyser and "When You're Away" by Mark Strand). The book is a good teacher and is packed with lots of terrific poetry.
This is a great exploration and anthology of poetic forms. My criticism is the failure of many chapters to include the poems mentioned in the discussion of the form. Why mention them as hallmarks of a given form and not include them? I was also disappointed in the lack of diversity among the contemporary poems provided.
This is an excellent resource for the study of poetic forms, their origin and structure with both traditional and contemporary examples. Mark Strand and Evan Boland take us from the villanelle to sonnets (both Petrarchan and Shakespearean), to the sestina, pantoun, couplet, free verse and more.
A must for all poetry lovers.
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Mark Strand is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, essayist, and translator. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1990. Since 2005, he has been a professor of English at Columbia University.
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