Book Review: “Beautiful & Pointless”

In Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry David Orr presents an accessible and funny account of of the current state of modern poetry. He begins the the book with his analysis of the complex predicament that poetry seems to hold in today’s society: an increasingly academic and prestigious realm that intimidates and alienates the majority of the population. It’s an obvious and rising viewpoint, but Orr adds his own apt and unique assessment that both makes poetry approachable and exciting for all: the author compares reading poetry to visiting a foreign country. It’s a very welcome explanation highlighting the fact that poetry does have its eccentricities, difficulties, and culture, but is still quite accessible and conquerable with enough time and concentration, which can yield pleasure and experiences comparable to immersing oneself in a foreign land.

by David Orr

With this easily readable stance and approach, Orr also decides to do away with any in-depth technical analysis of the various ways in which poems can be read in order to derive text-based meanings from them. His purposeful oversight isn’t too lamentable considering the countless volumes dedicated to such a task (but with denser and scholarly tones). Instead of an academic and dry analysis, the author provides explanations of the different types and forms of poems, along with snippets from some famous poems. The examples he uses are short and further reinforce his appreciation for poetry as whole. So, those looking for insider tips on how to better craft essays analyzing poetry will be slightly disappointed. Continue reading

Mission Statement for Cultural Commentary

When I started writing my critical essay analyzing Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s forty-third poem in Sonnets from the Portuguese, it was largely an effort to try to use one work to fulfill two different assignments for two different classes. But in the end I still ended up writing two slightly different essays that explored the same poem. Although they ended up being slightly different, both essays seemed to have a common desire: to write academic papers that didn’t sound academic (at least not in the usual sense of being overly distant in tone or staking its analysis on obscure or tangential facts). Continue reading

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