Sound Ideas

Why poetry is different than prose and other revelations

Review by Grady Harp

For those who love reading poetry and for those who write poetry this genuinely exhilarating book simply belongs in your libraries and in your minds. B. Eugene McCarthy and Fran Quinn have created an entry hall into the special chamber where poetry lives in this warmly illustrative book that invites us to approach poems in a more advanced method of appreciation.

The primary point made here is that poetry must be heard, must be read aloud or memorized and recited to truly attain the reasons for placing the words on the page in the manner that defines a ‘poem.’ Both authors are embedded in a passion for poetry – writing poetry themselves and teaching classes on the art – and that sort of ambiance is palpable throughout the book. To familiarize the reader with what is in this book, in the introduction they state the following: ‘Reading a poem on a page is a different process from listening to it, and speaking that poem is yet another kind of process….Our intent with this book is to show ways that we can move a poem off the page, which is where we usually address a poem, and ‘listen’ to it, ‘speak’ it…A poem is made up of lines. It is thus different, and looks different, on the page, from prose, which is made up of sentences and paragraphs, Our first principle about poems is to respect the integrity of the line….One consequence of learning to hear lines is that we hear words in a fresh way; we hear their `sounds’ and how their sounds contribute and change in conjunction with other sounds…etc’.

It is this caliber of respect, no – passion, for poetry that fills every page of this book. For brevity’s sake, suffice it to say that the book is divided into chapters on Line, Sound, Rhythm, Meter, Imagery, Metaphor and Simile, Rhyme, Form, Allegory/Symbol/Allusion, and Memory. Each ‘lesson’ is accompanied by examples from both well-known and less well known poets and we are asked to orally participate in the lessons – not a ‘task’ because the information is so infectiously inviting that without requesting it the reader will read aloud much of this book.

I cannot imagine writing poems now without this book, so informative and warmly full of insights it is. Recommended for teachers at all levels (from early grade school through college and into graduate guidance), for anyone who basks in the glory of hearing a Shakespeare play, for those who are searching for confidence in writing nascent poems, for the experienced poet, and of course for those who love to read poetry. Thee are so many doors and windows here, courtesy of McCarthy and Quinn that for those who read this book the world of poetry will truly blossom. This is an exceptional book from Hobblebush Books.

Grady Harp, April 2013

TITLE: SOUND IDEAS : HEARING AND SPEAKING POETRY
AUTHORS: B. EUGENE McCARTHY and FRAN QUINN
PUBLISHER: HOBBLEBUSH BOOKS
ISBN: 9780984592197

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