Book Review — How a Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers Afraid of Poetry



How a Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers Afraid of Poetry by Adam Sol is a collection of essays on poems. Sol is the author of three previous books of poetry, including Jeremiah, Ohio, a novel in poems that was shortlisted for Ontario’s Trillium Award for Poetry; and Crowd of Sounds, which won the award in 2004. He has published fiction, scholarly essays, and reviews.

Although there are some, or many, people who are afraid of poetry it is an important part of literature. They fear it is too complicated, too unmanly, or even recall hidden fears of English teachers. This fear can be conquered in one of two ways. First, the world can embrace Instagram sensation “poets” who write platitudes and poems that sound like they were pulled out of a middle of a song — short, generic, trite, and cliche. Second, we embrace poetry, take constructive lessons, use patience, and explore the poem.

Sol is part of the second solution; the one I prefer. Rather than memorizing a sonnet or research scholarly criticism on a poem, Sol presents the poem, breaks it down, and explains the verse. He guides the reader into the secrets the poem holds. Sol explains the style and how, like the title states, the poem moves. Some of the poets are people he was taught by or made an impression him. Others are presented to show how a poem articulates feelings, invites us to praise (odes), changes while we read it, or even mourns. The poems offer a path and what we take from them forms the journey. Easy reading and easy to understand explanations allow the reader to gain confidence in what they read and hopefully read further poetry on their own.


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