A wise, absorbing, and surprising introduction to poetry written in English, from one of England's leading poets
James Fenton is that rare scholar "not ashamed to admit that he mostly reads for pleasure" (Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books). In this eminently readable guide to his abiding passion, he has distilled the essense of a library's--and a lifetime's--worth of delight.
The pleasures of his own verse can be found in abundance here: economy, a natural ease, and most of all, surprise. What is English poetry? Fenton argues that it includes any recited words in English that marshall rhythm for their meaning--among them prisoners's work songs, Broadway show tunes, and the cries of street vendors captured in verse. From these beginnings, Fenton describes the rudiments of--and, most important, the inspiration for--the musical verse we find in books, and concludes with an illuminating discussion of operas and songs. Fenton illustrates his comments with verse from all over the English-speaking world.
Catholic in his taste, shrewd in his distinctions, and charmingly frank, Fenton is an ideal guide to everything to do with poetry, from the temperament of poets to their accomplishment, in all its variety. In all his writing, prose or verse, Fenton has always had the virtue of saying, in a way that seems effortless, precisely what lies at the heart of the matter. In this vein, An Introduction to English Poetry is one of his highest accomplishments.