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The Poet's Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices

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This handbook defines the tools, terms, and techniques of poetry. Arranged alphabetically from "accent" to "zeugma," The Poets Dictionary is clear, superb, and complete.


First published January 1, 1989

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About the author

William Packard

94 books4 followers
Packard was born September 2, 1933 and was raised in New York. A graduate of Stanford University, where he earned a degree in Philosophy and studied under the poet and critic Yvor Winters, Packard was a presence in the literary circles of the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s and 60's — circles that included Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Patchen, and Kenneth Rexroth. Packard was most active, however, in New York City, where he lived and wrote for more than half his life.
While in New York, Packard hosted the 92nd Street Y’s poetry reading series, was Vice President of the Poetry Society of America, and was co-director of the Hofstra Writers Conference for seven years. In 1957 he was awarded a Frost Fellowship and, in 1980, was honored with a reception at the White House for distinguished American poets.
Packard's literary career spanned nearly 50 years and resulted in the publication of six volumes of poetry, including "To Peel an Apple," "First Selected Poems," "Voices/I hear/voices," and "Collected Poems." His novel, "Saturday Night at San Marcos," was heralded as "a bawdy, irreverent send-up of the literary scene." His translation of Racine’s "Phedre," for which he was awarded the Outer Critic’s Circle Award, is the only English rendering to date to have maintained the original’s rhymed Alexandrine couplets, and was produced Off-Broadway with Beatrice Straight and Mildred Dunnock. His plays include "The Killer Thing," directed by Otto Preminger, "Sandra and the Janitor," produced at the HB Playwrights Foundation, "The Funeral," "The Marriage," and "War Play," produced and directed by Gene Frankel. Three collections of Mr. Packard’s one-act plays, "Psychopathology of Everyday Life," "Threesome," and "Behind the Eyes," were recently produced in New York. He was the great-grandson of Evangelist Dwight L. Moody and wrote the non-fiction book "Evangelism in America: From Tents to TV."
Beginning in 1965, when he inherited from Louise Bogan the poetry writing classes at New York University’s Washington Square Writing Center, Packard taught poetry and literature at NYU, Wagner, The New School, Cooper Union, The Bank Street Theatre, and Hofstra, as well as acting, and playwriting at the HB Studio in Manhattan. He is the author of the textbooks "The Art of the Playwright," "The Art of Screenwriting," "The Poet’s Dictionary," "The Art of Poetry Writing," and "The Poet’s Craft: Interviews from the New York Quarterly."
For his work with the New York Quarterly (NYQ), which he founded in 1969, Packard was called "one of the great editors of our time" by poet and novelist James Dickey. Cited by Rolling Stone as "the most important poetry magazine in America," the New York Quarterly earned a reputation for excellence by publishing poems and interviews with the prominent poets W. H. Auden, John Ashbery, Paul Blackburn, Richard Eberhart, Stanley Kunitz, Anne Sexton, Charles Bukowski, and W.S. Merwin, among many others. In fact, NYQ has, in its thirty-year career, published virtually every important poet in the nation. But the magazine is equally acclaimed for supporting the work of lesser-known poets. The poet Galway Kinnell once said of the magazine, "The New York Quarterly serves an invaluable function — and that is finding and publishing wonderful talents — such as Franz Douskey, Antler, Pennant, Lifshin, Inez, Moriarty — who may not have the recognition that their work so richly deserves."
The New York Quarterly temporarily suspended publication when Packard suffered a stroke, but returned to print shortly before his death.

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5 stars
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15 (39%)
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3 (7%)
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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
7 reviews1 follower
December 26, 2008
Simply the best of its kind. Abundant use of examples to illustrate poetic devices and terms.
Profile Image for Al.
33 reviews12 followers
February 25, 2019
Perfect for those pretty new to poetry. A good collection of terms which, once you understand their relationships to each other, will give you a headstart on learning more. Not a one-and-done, but an overview.
Profile Image for Liaken.
1,500 reviews
March 24, 2017
Clear definitions along with examples from many texts. It gets a bit long-winded at times, but it's easy to skip to the next piece. A good reference.
Profile Image for Sarah McCoy Isaacs.
66 reviews13 followers
July 16, 2010
Not practical in the way that Bloom or Oliver is. I have had to know very abstract poetic terminology (things having to do with Hebraic poetry, for Old Testament exegeses) in-depth, and am always interested to know new things. Packard seems more interested to present at length things that anyone who ever went to high school already should know. I was surprised to see assonance and alliteration included here, getting more than two sentences each, in such a short volume. If I'm going to take the time to work my way through this, I want to see space devoted to something that isn't general working knowledge.

I suppose this may have been helpful before the internet. If you have opposable thumbs and Google, this is a waste of your time.

Profile Image for Angie.
18 reviews
March 31, 2009
While this book is completely informative, and can meet the needs of a poet or a scholar of poets, I find some of the rambling definitions quite hilarious, and I find the author's picture on the back to be funnier than anything I've ever seeen.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

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