IN PURSUIT OF POETRY by Robert Hillyer


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Admittedly cursory (as any single book on such a topic must of necessity be), this book is an extensive and pleasurably authoritative study. The four parts deal -- in as great detail as is possible within the temporal confines of such a vast subject -- with the development of poetic style, the elements of verse, a brief survey of the background of poetry in English, and poetry in the 20th century. Liberally illustrated by quotations from the poetic works of numerous artists who are familiar by name if not always by verse, the author maintains that the basis of poetry is the concentration of the moment, the revelation of the eternal in the familiar, for ""The poet presents his material intensely, in concentrated and heightened form. The sure poetic temperament is that faculty that feels the most ordinary events of life as something wonderful and interesting, the most ordinary routine of life as something beautiful and significant....Without losing sight of reality, the poet observes it with a greater excitement than others do."" In the eyes of this established poet-critic, much poetic criticism has degenerated into mere impressionism through the critic's reluctance to answer the three questions required of him -- what is the author's intention, has he succeeded in it, and was the intention worthwhile in the first place? Poetry, he defines as ""...the highest expression of what is most natural to man in every phase of his life""- and the great poet as ""...the one who gives us the best of himself and his experience of life as he has known it in his time."" The interdependent exchange of the pursuit of poetry is an infinitely exciting one -- when the reader is as well-versed in the reception of poetry as the poet in creating it. Erudite without obscurity, authoritative without pedantry, and definitive without dogmatism, this sensitive book is a delight to the alert and avid intellect.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1960
Publisher: McGraw-Hill