Helping readers overcome their ambivalence about poetry.
As a fine poet in his own right and editor at large at the independent poetry press Wave Books as well as the poetry page editor at the New York Times Magazine, Zapruder (English/St. Mary’s Coll.; Sun Bear, 2014, etc.) is highly qualified to take on the age-old question. The author takes a personal approach, mixing memoir, analysis, and argument. As a high school senior in 1985, he dreaded the poetry unit. He picked W.H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” to analyze. After reading the opening lines, “something just clicked,” and he understood “that there was something only poetry could do.” After graduate work in Russian language and literature, Zapruder decided to pursue a degree in creative writing and never looked back. Now, he wants to share his love and knowledge of poetry. Even if readers won’t feel like the “top[s] of [their] head[s] were taken off,” as Emily Dickinson described it, Zapruder hopes to show how “poetry creates the poetic state of mind in a reader” through a poem’s form, its leaps of association, and how it plays with the nature of language itself. He first guides readers through literal readings of three poems to demonstrate how to read a poem and dig down into its core to freely enjoy the poem for what it is. Zapruder’s writing is accessible, easygoing, and welcoming, as if he’s sitting right there talking us through the poems. Throughout, he uses numerous poems to clearly explain how each achieves something unique. His discussion of the enigma of line breaks is first-rate. He writes about how he fell in love with W.S. Merwin’s dark and often surreal collection The Lice (1967) and how a Frank O’Hara poem, “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island,” now helps him “in this time of crisis, and beyond.”
To the poetry skeptics, what have you got to lose?