Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry” as Want to Read:
Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  283 ratings  ·  18 reviews
In this new edition of Best Words, Best Order, Stephen Dobyns further explains the mystery of the poet's work. Through essays on memory and metaphor, pacing, and the intricacies of voice and tone, and thoughtful appreciations of Chekhov, Ritsos, Mandelstam, and Rilke, Dobyns guides readers and writers through poetry's mysterious twilight communiques. For this new second ed ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 2nd 2003 by Palgrave Macmillan (first published April 15th 1996)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Best Words, Best Order, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Best Words, Best Order

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 630)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Robert
I found this book less compelling and intellectually concise than Czeslaw Milosz's The Witness of Poetry (Milosz), but also less interfering between reader and poem (and thereby slightly condescending) than Edward Hirsch's How To Read A Poem (Hirsch). Mostly, this is an excellent read into the evolution of free verse -- something every contemporary poet should understand; this is our heritage.
Alarie
To be honest, I found large sections of this book of no interest to me. Dobyns wrote many long essays on individual authors that I skipped. However, when he wrote in general terms about the purpose of poetry, what makes a good poem, the magic of metaphors, the importance of pacing, tone, engaging a reader, etc., he was singing my song.
Patrick Mcgee
This collection of essays on the form of poetry is probably the best I have ever had the privilege of reading. Dobyns straight forward approach help enlighten both the aspiring poet as well as the more tenured artists out there. I found out informative, entertaining, and inspiring all in the same breath. The only drawback, in my opinion, was the three of the essays towards the end of the book regarding three specific poets / writers that Dobyns analyzes. Although I found the fourth of these on R ...more
Bob
Jul 30, 2008 Bob rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
I've read this book two or three times. Since I don't remember a lot of it, I'm probably due to read it again. One thing I remember is that there is some coverage of Rilke's work ethic. Rilke learned from working with Rodin that one must go to work as a craftsman. Yet Rilke was not above needing inspiration as the raw material on which to work.

I've probably assimiliated much of this book and no longer know know which of my opinions are based on it. My recollection is that it had a lot of insight
...more
Jsavett1
The chapters on Free Verse, Metaphor, Pacing, and Tone were all quite interesting, the first being the longest and best. I took notes, underlined and highlighted frequently. I believe there are some wonderful insights here which will make me a better poet if I'm able to make them second nature.

Like many of the other reviewers here, I found the chapters on individual poets rather boring and in skipped two of them. The one on Osip Mandelstam was personally interesting to me because I like Mandelst
...more
Brian
I started with the chapters on Free-Verse and the bit on Cemetery Nights. Neither shows this author at his best, yet slowly but surely I warmed up to him by the end. He has a very good, healthy view of poetry as that purveyor of the transcendent through the immediate.

I loved many chapters, such as Pacing, Tone, the Voice, and especially Manipulation of Time. Always solid when talking about beauty. Not very dense and a lot of intriguing possibilities. Not something that inspires me to write poems
...more
Bridget
Very useful for serious writing.
Sigrun Hodne
Nov 18, 2012 Sigrun Hodne marked it as to-read
Shelves: on-writing, poetry
I’m reading Stephen Dobyns book of essays on poetry; Best Words, Best Order (1996/2003). I enjoy it a lot, but there is this view in the first essay called Deception, that I find rather difficult to understand. In a discussion on the difference between the novel and poetry, Dobyns say:

So in my poetry I believe I deal with the existing world and in my novels with alternative worlds. If I feel badly about the world, dislike its people, feel pessimistic about its future, then I can’t write poetry.
...more
Gerry LaFemina
There are times in these essays where Dobyns loses sight of his goals, allowing for the biography of writers to take too much precedence, but his thorough discussion and explanations of prosody, of beauty, and of the history of poetry is both erudite and well presented.
Darraghmc80
A very good collection of essays on poetry and especially insightful on the mysteries of metaphor. Dobyns admirably doesn't try to explain the central mysteries of the many poems he quotes, rather uses the examples more to illustrate points about technique, form and the like.

Although the book is about poetry, there is a lot to learn in these pages about the art of any sort of writing - for example, the notion that once you start writing for an audience or editor you are effectually compromising
...more
Rebekah
I've always wondered what separates good poetry from bad, especially when it comes to free verse. This book answers that question through a series of dense but insightful essays that describe intellectual and emotional engagement with metaphor, diction and rhythm, as well as providing a history of free verse development. I particularly enjoyed the two essays that described how and why a specific poem was written and revised. Another great read. Thanks, Deja.
Ruth
Best words, best order. I think I got more from the title than from the book. I wanted to like this. I generally like Dobyn's poetry. But I found this tough slogging.

R
Jill Sumstad
Dobyns has an unusual way of looking at poetry that is at once historical, formulaic, and metaphysical.
Hoss
Mar 22, 2007 Hoss is currently reading it
Started it this past summer...I haven't gotten very far...but it's there. It's good so far...
Emma
A few good poems but not amazing as a collection.
Donald
An amazing collection of essays on poetry.
Shawn
This is a great collection of essays on poetry.
Kitty
Sep 29, 2007 Kitty rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all writers
see my comments posted under Roberts
Allie
Allie marked it as to-read
Mar 24, 2015
Ec Doerr
Ec Doerr is currently reading it
Mar 12, 2015
Dayna
Dayna marked it as to-read
Mar 10, 2015
Azadeh sharifi
Azadeh sharifi marked it as to-read
Mar 06, 2015
Sean
Sean marked it as to-read
Mar 01, 2015
Sarah
Sarah marked it as to-read
Feb 21, 2015
MMG
MMG marked it as to-read
Feb 18, 2015
Carlos
Carlos marked it as to-read
Feb 16, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 21 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing
  • Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft
  • The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach
  • The Life of Poetry
  • The Art of the Poetic Line
  • Poetry and the Age
  • In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop
  • The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination
  • Poetic Meter and Poetic Form
  • Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry
  • The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry
  • The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction
  • Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry
  • The Art of Description: World into Word
  • Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968?1993
  • The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song
  • Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present
  • Proofs and Theories
15200
Dobyns was raised in New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He was educated at Shimer College, graduated from Wayne State University, and received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1967. He has worked as a reporter for the Detroit News.

He has taught at various academic institutions, including Sarah Lawrence College, the Warren Wilson College MFA Program
...more
More about Stephen Dobyns...
The Church Of Dead Girls The Burn Palace Boy in the Water Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992 The Wrestler's Cruel Study

Share This Book

“One writes a poem when one is so taken up by an emotional concept that one is unable to remain silent.” 5 likes
“A work of art gives testimony to what it is to be a human being. It bears witness, it extracts meaning. A work of art is also the clearest nonphysical way that emotions is communicated from one human being to another. The emotion isn't referred to; it is re-created. The emotion shows us that our most private feelings are in fact shared feelings. And this offer us some relief from our existential isolation.
(p: 10)”
3 likes
More quotes…