Subjects in Poetry
158 Pages / 5.50 x 8.50 x 0.37 in
- Paperback /
- 9780807176092 /
- Published: November 2021
- eBook /
- 9780807176672 /
- Published: November 2021
Daniel Brown’s Subjects in Poetry is the first book to examine the broad and imposing topic of poetic subject matter, probing both what poems are about and how that influences the way they're made. It comprises one poet’s attempt to plumb the nature of his art, to ask how the selection of material remains a crucial yet unexplored area of poetic craft, and to suggest the vast range of possible subjects for poems.
The book begins by venturing a novel definition of “subject,” derived from Robert Frost’s dictum that poetry constitutes an “art of having something to say.” Brown posits that a poem can say something by expressing, evoking, or addressing. He considers each of these ways-of-saying in turn, first defining it and then looking at poems in which it predominates. Brown next makes a wide-ranging case for the value of subjects to poems, poets, and the art of poetry, especially at a time when many poems appear subjectless. He concludes the book with practical guidance on finding subjects, improving them, and realizing their potential.
Replete with thoughtful readings of poems both classic and contemporary, Subjects in Poetry should appeal to poets across all levels and readers interested in understanding the art and practice of poetry.
“This wholly original book is the most enlivening look at poetry I’ve come across in a while. There are notable observations—insightful, funny, arresting—on every page; the writing is consistently instinct with wit. Brown is unafraid to state what may seem obvious but is a too often obscured truth: that what subjects give poetry is humanness. Nobody to my knowledge has written a book that so directly goes to this heart of things.” ~William H. Pritchard, Henry Clay Folger Professor of English Emeritus, Amherst College
“Subjects in Poetry is a surprising, lively, and illuminating look at a ‘subject’ I would have thought ungraspable.” ~Christian Wiman, author of Survival Is a Style
“With its reader friendliness, its distilled brevity, its infectious (can I still use that word?) enthusiasms, Subjects in Poetry seems destined to be a classic, a guidebook that belongs in the hands of students and practitioners alike.” ~A. E. Stallings, MacArthur winner and Pulitzer finalist
“In the elegantly simple, wryly witty prose of this slim yet bountiful book, poet and critic Daniel Brown makes the argument that subjects matter... His literary analysis lovingly lays bare the workings of each example poem in a manner that will remind you of your most inspirational high school English teacher, the one under whose tutelage your passion of poetry first exhilaratingly, freshly bloomed.” ~Jenna Le, author of Six Rivers
“Subjects in Poetry delights largely because of its gusto and wit. . . I found it uniquely interesting. . . .It deserves a well-regarded place in the body of shared wisdom about poems.” ~Literary Matters
“Brown's book signals the return of a literary criticism at once learned and humane, unpretentious and most certainly unspecialized, even as it has a great deal to teach us about the riches of poetry. . . Literary criticism at its best should make us want to return to the great works it studies, even as we also wish to linger with the words of the critic as a joy in their own right. At this, Brown has succeeded.” ~Modern Age
“This book is the best contemporary writing about literature I’ve read in about forty years (since Hugh Kenner maybe).” ~Frederick Turner, winner of the Levinson Poetry Prize from Poetry Magazine and the Milan Fust Prize