Practical criticism by I. A. Richards3:03 PM
I have some poetry books lying around which I just can't finish reading. I usually put novels on a deadline: x number of pages per day. I can't do that with poetry. Or can I? (cue evil smile and raised brow) No, I can't. We can't read poetry as we read prose.
So, I set the poetry aside and began reading Practical Criticism by I. A. Richards instead. It has been an enormous help. Richards is considered the father of New Criticism, so his book is all about close reading.
He begins the book as an experiment. He gave his students a poem without any further information - they didn't know the author, the date, nothing. This meant the poem could have been written by Shakespeare or by a four year old.
He took students' analysis and used it to help us effectively analyse a poem. In case you are wondering, the major difficulties he pinpoints are:
1) The meaning of the poem
2) The sounds and rhythm of the poem
3) The images that are (or that are not) in the poem
4) Your own personal experiences - they cannot determine if a poem is good or not
5) Stock responses
8) Doctrinal adhesion
9) Paying too much attention to technical details
10) Prior demands made upon poetry as a result of theories on criticism
Keeping all of these items in mind seems like a good way to start tackling poetry. However, I don't see myself finishing all those poetry books any time soon. No wonder poetry books are not usually best sellers.
Image via My Imaginary Brooklyn
How do you read poetry? Can you finish a whole book on poetry or you concentrate only in a few poems at a time?