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About this book

Living Poetry demonstrates that poems are vital expressions of how we live, feel and think. Lucidly written and jargon free, it introduces a range of poems from the Elizabethan age to the present day, presenting practical models of close reading and a stimulating rationale for the power of poetry to move and excite us.

Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Introduction

Without Abstract
William Hutchings

Elements of Poetry

Frontmatter

2. Form and Technique

Abstract
The materials of poetry are words. Poems are created step by step, by building words into structures, beginning with the phrases and clauses that make up the lines, stanzas and other formal sections. A poet — the word derives from the Greek meaning ‘maker’ — constructs the whole from these parts. It is with this etymology that George Puttenham began his highly significant and influential tract in the development of English rhetoric and poetics, The Arte of English Poesie, published in 1589: ‘A poet is as much to say as a maker.’ 2 Poets’ techniques, the skills they employ in the service of their craft, lie in selecting their material and then shaping it into an expressive work of art.
William Hutchings

Living Poetry

Frontmatter

3. Feeling: The Experience of Emotion in Poems from the Sixteenth Century to the Twentieth Century

Abstract
Love is, of course, poetry’s most common and celebrated cause. Perhaps for that very reason, love poetry is particularly vulnerable to banality and cliché. The easy topic for the poet in search of a subject, its outcomes too often betray empty facility of the sort that makes commercially manufactured verses for greetings cards.
William Hutchings

4. Thinking: Varieties of Thought from the Seventeenth Century to the Twentieth Century

Without Abstract
William Hutchings

5. Doing: Poetry of Action from the Seventeenth Century to the Twentieth Century

Abstract
Since the time of Homer, the epic has commonly been regarded as the acme of poetic art and the highest expression of human actions. Epic began as long narrative poetry, oral and then literary. Oral epic, such as the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey and the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, commonly features heroic and supernatural events, dangerous journeys and displays of physical prowess. As literary epic developed, so these features were subsumed in and modified by an ideal view of the civilization that produced them. Imperial Rome called on Virgil to follow in Homer’s footsteps. Homer’s Iliad had narrated the fall of Troy from the Greek point of view; Virgil’s Aeneid contains a tragic version of the same subject within its larger narrative of the establishment of Rome by the exiled Aeneas. These are the classical epics of nationalism and militarism.
William Hutchings

6. Living and Dying: From the Sixteenth Century to the Twentieth Century

Abstract
‘We die to each other daily’, says a character in T. S. Eliot’s play The Cocktail Party. 1 It might be equally true to say that we are reborn to each other daily. The joyous experience of new or renewed living is commonly imaged in spring’s return to quicken the year. The rhythm of the seasonal cycle aligns itself naturally to our life cycle, offering continuity, inevitability and consolation.
William Hutchings

Poetry Lives

Frontmatter

7. Writing and Reading Poems in the Present

Abstract
This book has been about how poetry of the past lives on in readers of the present. But there is a further way in which poetry lives: through poets of the present who continue the creative task of finding forms to enact their experience of living. The societies and environments within which we find ourselves change; the processes of art remain. For each of us, the moment of experience and the moment of writing are The Present Tense, as Gwen Harwood called her final volume, published in 1995. That was also the year in which she died, her present tense becoming a past. But the volume and her works as a whole — one of the most distinguished oeuvres in twentieth-century Australian poetry, as her compatriot and fellow poet Peter Porter has asserted — live on in the present. The history of poetry is continual movement, travelling on. At the same time, new poems recurrently acknowledge their predecessors. In Harwood’s case, these range from the ‘Burning Sappho’ who stands behind her poem of that title, an ancient Greek feminist shadow for a poem of tense, barely suppressed anger and frustration about the domestic trammels of the modern female poet, to the twentieth-century Englishman whom she elegizes in the fittingly restrained ‘I M Philip Larkin’. Poetry feeds upon its past in order to sustain its present.
William Hutchings
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