REVIEW: HOW A POEM MOVES: A FIELD GUIDE FOR READERS OF POETRY – ADAM SOL (ECW PRESS)

“….if you don’t think poetry matters, you wouldn’t have bought or borrowed or stolen this book. So we’ll leave the generalizations about poetry to others. Ultimately I can’t say I get very excited about trying to define what poetry is. I’m more interested in what poetry can do. So while I’m not going to be afraid to get a little professorial if a term or technique needs some explanation or context, I’m going to do my very best to steer clear of big sweeping generalizations. We’re going to dig in and get our hands dirty in the details.”
– Adam Sol

During my first year teaching I put a John Donne poem on the overhead – yes, it’s been that long – and asked my 9th graders to dive in and figure it out. To me, who had thrown myself headlong into poetry as a little kid, this was a really exciting adventure. To my students, it was like staring at a document written in Klingon, and being asked to translate it into Elfish. It doesn’t work. There wasn’t a context for them. They didn’t know the language. They barely knew who Shakespeare was, let alone John Donne and his three-headed monsters. I wasn’t helping them want to learn about poetry; I was pushing them away from poetry.

Adam Sol’s How a Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers Afraid of Poetry, is a window into how poems move rather than what they state. It’s a personal approach to understanding how someone else’s words make you feel. It’s Billy Collins telling us that we should not

tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

– from Billy Collins “Introduction to Poetry”

Adam Sol’s How a Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers Afraid of Poetry, is a field guide for all readers, writers, students, and teachers of all levels that it is not our purpose to break apart the language, but instead, to move with it.

Purchase your copy of How a Poem Moves from ECW Press.

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