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Reference Book of the Week: The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

National Poetry Month logo 2008 Thank you for joining us for another edition of Reference Book of the Week here at The Patriot Spot. We continue our look at reference books related to poetry as we celebrate National Poetry Month during April. This week we feature the prestigious and excellent resource The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poets and Poetics. The Preface gives a broad description of what this book does:

"This is a book of knowledge, of facts, theories, questions, and informed judgment, about poetry. Its aim is to provide a comprehensive, comparative, reasonably advances, yet readable reference for all students, teachers, scholars, poets, or general readers who are interested in the history of any poetry in any national literature of the world, or in any aspect of the technique or criticism of poetry" (vii).

Readers then will find basic facts, definitions, and critical theories about poetry, poetic works, and concepts. Authors are not really covered. For example, if you want an entry about Robert Frost, you will not find it here. By the way, if you really need something on Robert Frost, ask me. I will be happy to help you find what you need. If, on the other hand, you want to learn about national poetries (say Danish poetry) or the concept of satire, then this is your book. Let's look at a little more from the Preface to see what else this great volume offers:
"It provides surveys of 106 national poetries; descriptions of poetic forms and genres major and minor, traditional and emergent; detailed explanations of the devices of prosody and rhetoric; and overviews of all major schools of poetry ancient and modern, Western and Eastern. It provides balanced and comprehensive accounts of the major movements and issues in criticism and literary theory, and discussion of the manifold relations of poetry to the other fields of human thought and activity--history, science, politics, religion, philosophy, music, the visual arts" (vii).
For starters, we are getting surveys of national poetries. As I mentioned above, if you wanted to learn about Danish poetry, for example, this is your book. And if you are curious, yes, there is an entry for American, that is United States, poetry. Next, the book covers forms of poetry, genres of poetry, and schools of poetry. Let's say that your teacher in class mentions that a poem is a fine example of the Russian formalist school, but he assumes you know what the Russian formalist school is. You may not know what it is. This book will provide you with a good survey of Russian formalism. Do keep in mind that it will look at Russian formalism as it applies to poetry. If you need to know more, say how it applies in other genres like the novel, then you may need a different book. This book focuses on poetry.The editors do note that this is an encyclopedia of poetry, not an encyclopedia of criticism (ix). I would like to add that we do have some very good encyclopedias and handbooks that focus on literary criticism in a more general way. Again, ask me if you would like help in finding them. The first edition of this book came out in 1965. It was revised in 1974, and eventually the editors made a new encyclopedia in 1984. Our current volume was published in 1993. This later edition does reflect many changes in literary theory and the teaching of literature. For example, there is more focus on diversity in terms of places covered (Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia) and changes in critical theory and practice as well as in the writing of poetry itself. The work's entries are organized alphabetically. Each entry includes a good bibliography for further reading. Overall, this is a solid work on poetry and how it works. You can find The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics in the library's reference collection on the second floor under the call number PN 1021 .N39 1993.
Published by root on 23 Apr

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