cover image Why Poetry

Why Poetry

Matthew Zapruder. Ecco, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-234307-9

This is in many ways a marvelous book. Zapruder (Sun Bear), poetry editor for the New York Times Magazine, warms to his subject—the importance of poetry and what makes it tick—as the book gets past the somewhat wordy introduction and overly autobiographical first few chapters. He shows that poetry “connects elements that one wouldn’t have expected” to surprise the reader with an awareness of associations perhaps not quite in the range of conscious thought. Poetry, unhampered by having to fulfill other functions, offers a pure interaction with language and thus the possibility of catching elusive moments of illumination. If Zapruder does not quite succeed in convincing readers that poetry differs entirely from other writing genres, his analyses of a wide range of individual poets, including Robert Hass, John Keats, Audre Lorde, W.S. Merwin, and Walt Whitman, offer insight about the use of metaphor, symbol, absence, and negative capability, and prompt conversation about his conclusions. Ending with a politically charged afterword, “Poetry and Poets in a Time of Crisis,” this passionate book, aimed at would-be poets, would work well both in a college classroom and in the hands of ordinary readers. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Aug.)