Cover image for How to read a poem-- and start a poetry circle
How to read a poem-- and start a poetry circle
Peacock, Molly, 1947-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
209 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1031 .P358 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Many of us love poetry. Or perhaps, more accurately, many of us would like to love poetry...if we weren't so afraid of it. Molly Peacock has loved reading poetry for five decades, loved writing it for nearly four, and has loved teaching it for over twenty-five years. As one of our nation's most admired poets, she is perfectly poised to strip away the scary mystique to reveal how poetry works its alluring alchemy on us and invite us to love it wholeheartedly, to experience it with our hearts and souls. Best of all, she shows us why poetry begs to be shared, to be read aloud, discussed, and enjoyed among friends.

How to Read a Poem is a slender book of ways to explore the romance we have with words we can't quite hold. In twelve chapters, Peacock presents eighteen "talisman" poems -- cherished poems that she has collected over the years. Some of the poems are well known, such as Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" or Philip Larkin's "Talking in Bed"; others are more obscure, such as a sexy anonymous medieval poem called "Wulf and Edwacer" or the Romantic poet John Clare's "I Am." Each poem is printed in its entirety, providing readers with a slender anthology with which to start a poetry circle; each chapter examines the interior life of both the poem and the poet, giving readers a window to their interior lives as well. A story will unfold around the poem, and the poem's wisdom will unfold inside the story.

How to Read a Poem also offers a practical and anecdotal guide to organizing a poetry reading group and a final chapter in which twenty poets present their suggestions of favorite books with which to begin your poetry reading experience.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Although it was only a decade ago that doomsayers foresaw the death of poetry as a viable literary genre, there has been a remarkable resurgence of interest. Poetry slams at bookstores and nightclubs, "Poets in the Schools" programs, and the unprecedented appearance of poets on mainstream television all point to the renewed popularity of the genre. Here are two new guides designed to enrich the experience of poetry. Hirsch (On Love, LJ 6/15/98) has gathered an eclectic group of poems from many times and places, with selections as varied as postwar Polish poetry, works by Keats and Christopher Smart, and lyrics from African American work songs. A prolific, award-winning poet in his own right, Hirsch suggests helpful strategies for understanding and appreciating each poem. The book is scholarly but very readable and incorporates interesting anecdotes from the lives of the poets. Part poetry explication and part memoir, Peacock's charming book includes 18 favorite poems that she has collected and cherished over the years. Offering sensitive interpretations of each work, Peacock tends to favor modern and contemporary poets such as May Swenson, Elizabeth Bishop, and Yusef Komunyakaa. Like Hirsch, Peacock is a popular and critically acclaimed poet; she is also a founder of the "Poetry in Motion" program that puts poetry in America's buses and subways. Peacock encourages the shared enjoyment of poetry through reading groups and provides practical advice for organizing a poetry circle. Most public libraries will want to acquire the Peacock book, while Hirsch is a good choice for academic and larger public libraries.ÄEllen Sullivan, Ferguson Lib., Stamford, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.