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The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self

ISBN: 0-472-06895-4

By Annie Finch
Review by: Moira Richards

07/06

When I open a book and find that before I have read but one page, there are two words about which I need to consult a dictionary ... then I feel intimidated to read it, let alone to review it. But Ms Finch proved to be an excellent teacher. And once I had looked up the few literary terms that were strange to me, her collection of essays led me into absorbing discussions of aspects of poetry of which I had but vaguely been aware.

For instance, meter. Usually I write or read a poem and think little more than, Do the words roll easily or clumsily off the tongue? But now, not only do I know how liltingly seductive is that sternly named Amphibrach, but I have also been charmed enough to try and write my own poem using the meter. (A nigh impossible task for a beginner as I found, but a challenge that I will surely come back to :-).

One section of the collection features short essays exploring ways to discover and create a poetic canon other than one centered about white male poets. Another discusses the fluidity and multiplicity of the relationships or interactions a poetess might have with the world around her and how these can be reflected in the way that she writes her poems. A third deals with various (subversive!) aspects of meter, and there are fourth and fifth sections too! All comprise accessible essays with many references to and critiques of, other poetess’s works. For me, the best way to read this book was to dip into it section by section as my interests awoke.

Annie Finch concludes her preface to this book thusly,

“I wrote each of these essays in part to encourage, inspire, or create a context for my own work as a poet.”

I think the collection serves well as encouragement and inspiration for any poet who reads it. The essays, dedicated to the WOM-PO (Discussion of Women’s Poetry) listserv, also embody some of the best aspects of that list. There, poets and students share resources and ideas, teachers and publishers discuss and explain every imaginable facet of poetry. It is one of the richest, most exciting places I’ve found to hang out on the Internet (http://lists.usm.maine.edu/archives/wom-po.html) and The Body of Poetry is just the same, between two covers.

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