What's the best, most exhaustive prosody manual?
September 15, 2006 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a great book about the technical and formal aspects of poetry?

I'm looking for an exhaustive but clearly written prosody manual. The sort of book I want would examine all the sound elements of English language poetry, would really drill down into all the variants of the main forms and provide commentary on their different effects. Any suggestions?
posted by Iridic to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Perrine's Sound and Sense was our textbook in Senior AP Literature during the poetry unit. It was informative, but the author's style is a little odd from time to time.
posted by muddgirl at 1:01 PM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Mary Oliver's Rules of the Dance might be a good place to start. I'm not a huge fan of Oliver's poetry, but she writes a mean handbook.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 1:05 PM on September 15, 2006

Paul Fussell's Poetic Meter and Poetic Form is my favorite book of this kind.
posted by RogerB at 1:09 PM on September 15, 2006

A bit lighter than some of the above, but a good introduction, is Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled.
posted by crocomancer at 1:12 PM on September 15, 2006

Fussell's book is probably the gold-standard here, but he's firmly a traditionalist and you won't get anything on the avant-garde stuff. Another good option would be Robert Pinsky's "The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide." I would supplement whatever manual you get with the Oulipo Compendium for a completely different viewpoint.
posted by mattbucher at 2:43 PM on September 15, 2006

The Fussell book is technically inclusive, but also comparitively short and, thus almost necessarily, really really dense. As a high school and college student who was just curious about poetry and wanted to read and learn about it in my free time, I very much enjoyed Sound and Sense. So as between these two, if you're a grad student or beyond you might enjoy the Fussell, but otherwise give Sound and Sense a try.

One other major difference is that Fussell generally just excerpts from poems, to make his point, as part of his narrative. You very rarely read whole poems there, so while the book does teach you alot about meter and form, you don't necessarily come out of it with a few new poems or poets that you've determined you love. With Sound and Sense, you do. This may not matter to you; I just note it fwiw.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:42 PM on September 15, 2006

I've heard wonderful things about this book. Friends that concentrate on meter consistently recommend this book as both a fun read and a great resource about prosody.
posted by theantikitty at 4:31 PM on September 15, 2006

My favorite is Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux' The Poet's Companion. It's thorough, informative and wonderfully well-written. Other chapters do focus on writing poetry, generating material, and the like, and so may not fit your request exactly, but look it over if you have the chance.
posted by Riverine at 6:01 PM on September 15, 2006

The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms is great. They explore all of the major forms, and include examples.
posted by lilboo at 8:02 PM on September 15, 2006

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