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Patterns of Poetry

An Encyclopedia of Forms

203 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations


  Paperback / 9780807113301 / August 1986

Miller Williams’ Patterns of Poetry is an encyclopedia of the forms used by poets throughout the history of English, from blank verse to hymnal measure, from englyn penfyr to the double dactyl, from the clerihew to the sonnet. Each form is introduced with a brief discussion of its origin and other relevant history, such as its relationship to other forms. This is followed by a graphic presentation of is scansion, metrics, and rhyme scheme. Each section concludes with a sample poem showing how the form actually works. In many cases more than one poem is offered, to show the contrasting ways a pattern has served poets of different centuries or the wide range of tonal possibilities even a simple form can exhibit among contemporary poets.

Williams begins Patterns of Poetry with and introduction entitled “Form and the Age,” in which he traces the history of form in the arts and the ways in which any form relates to the political, social, and religious temper of the period in which it becomes dominant. He then prefaces the main text with useful notes on rhyme, prosodic symbols, the major feet, metrics, and nonce forms. Also included in the book are a glossary; a bibliography; a listing of additional poems in the various patterns (poems not included in the text but of great use to teachers); an essay on the use of the devices of structural linguistics in prosody; an essay on the line as the prosodic unit; and an index to the poets, the poems, and to terms defined in the book, including the patters themselves.

Concise, instructive, and easy to understand, Patterns of Poetry is the best book of its kind ever written and the only one currently available, a necessary resource for students and experienced poets alike. 

Miller Williams is the author, editor, or translator of thirty-four books, including fourteen volumes of poetry, Patterns of Poetry: An Encyclopedia of Forms, and Making a Poem: Some Thoughts about Poetry and the People Who Write It. Among his many honors are the Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship in Poetry from Harvard University, the Poets' Prize, the Prix de Rome for Literature, and the Academy Award for Literature, the latter two both from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was inaugural poet for Bill Clinton's second swearing-in as president, and he is the father of three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Lucinda Williams.

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