From one of the most esteemed American poets of the twenty-first century comes a celebration of poetry and an invitation for anyone to experience its beauty and wonder.
Full of fresh and exciting insights, Making Your Own Days illuminates the somewhat mysterious subject of poetry for those who read it and for those who write it—as well as for those who would like to read and write it better. By treating poetry not as a special use of language but as a distinct language—unlike the one used in prose and conversation—Koch clarifies the nature of poetic inspiration, how poems are written and revised, and what happens to the heart and mind while reading a poem.
Koch also provides a rich anthology of more than ninety works from poets past and present. Lyric poems, excerpts from long poems and poetic plays, poems in English, and poems in translation from Homer and Sappho to Lorca, Snyder, and Ashbery; each selection is accompanied by an explanatory note designed to complement and clarify the text and to put pleasure back into the experience of poetry.
Ordinary mortals and poet scholars alike will find something to love in Koch's down-to-earth approach to making sense of that most head scratching of literary genres. Asserting that "poetry ... is a separate language," he steers clear of the stodgy, hidden-meaning school of deciphering poems (wherein the reader digs through the poem "for some elusive and momentous significance") and takes us instead on a tour through the tonal, rhythmical, and metrical aspects of poetry. Yes, it's about the music: "The sound of words is raised to an importance equal to that of their meaning, and also to the importance of grammar and syntax." But rather than asking us to simply take his word for it, Koch provides lively and insightful examples (including many rarely anthologized poems). For instance, why does "two and two are rather green" have little or no meaning, while "two and two / Are rather blue" smacks of the truth? Why does "I don't know whether or not to commit suicide" plop from the mouth like so much cold oatmeal, while "To be or not to be, that is the question" is so pleasing to the ears? Resonance, says Koch. "Poetry lasts because it gives the ambiguous and ever-changing pleasure of being both a statement and a song."
Moving from poetry's music to its methods (comparisons, personifications, and apostrophe, to name a few), Koch continues to offer up an amusing and edifying array of excerpts and analogies to clarify his point that with poetry, "as with baseball ... one has to understand a little in order to enjoy it...." Insightful, yet never patronizing, Making Your Own Days is for anyone who's ever read a poem and wished it were more "like a newspaper article." Though Koch can't tell us why Wallace Stevens wrote "I placed a jar in Tennessee," or why "So much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow" (William Carlos Williams), he helps us listen to--and savor--that sometimes bewildering conglomeration of words otherwise known as poetry. --Martha Silano