Beautiful & Pointless by David Orr

Beautiful & Pointless {A Guide to Modern Poetry}by David Orr

Harper Collins, New York, 2011

Borrowed from my local library.

I don’t usually read how-to-read-a-book  books or how-to-read poetry books, for that matter but I fell in love with this book’s title the moment I heard it.  Some times I understand modern poetry, sometimes I’m completely lost.  David Orr’s book starts with a brilliant premise.  Read poetry as if it were  a foreign country, specifically Belgium.

The comparison may seem ridiculous at first, but consider the way you’d be thinking about Belgium if you were planning a trip there.  You might try to learn a few useful phrases, or read a little Belgium history, or thumb through a guidebook in search of museums, restaurants, flea markets, or promising sounding bars.  The important things is that you’d know you were going to be confused, or at least occasionally at a loss, and you’d accept that confusion as part of the experience.  What you wouldn’t do, however, is become paralyzed with anxiety because you don’t speak fluent Flemish, or convinced that to really “get” Belgium, you need to memorize the Brussels phone book…from the introduction.

Orr writes about poetry as it is written today.  The personal, the political, forms of poetry and how modern poetry became modern in the first place.  He discusses different poets, their styles and life in the modern poetic “fishbowl”.  He even makes an attempt at answering that big question, “Why Bother?”.   Beautiful & Pointless is written in a conversational tone, light and with a touch of humor.  In the end we all are individuals, and read poetry in our own ways, and no one came tell us our way is better or worse than anyone else’s.   This little book certainly helped alleviate some of my mental anxiety.

David Orr writes for the New York Times Book Review.  I read his columns. This post is written for the Poetry: Read More/ Blog More monthly event hosted by Lu and Kailana.


Filed under Criticism, Poetry, Poetry/Read More/Blog More, Thoughts

9 responses to “Beautiful & Pointless by David Orr

  1. Oh I could do with a book like this I ve a number of poetry books but never quite sure if I fully get the experience ,I love listening to podcast of poetry thou ,all the best stu

  2. Lu

    That’s a PERFECT description of poetry. Something I like to say is you don’t have to get it. I posted a poem on my blog and someone said they didn’t get half the allusions so they couldn’t enjoy it. The fact is that I couldn’t get them all either. I’ll never understand everything, but I can still appreciate and fall in love with poems I don’t completely get. Love this! I’m definitely going to be reading this book. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks for your comment, Lu. I really do enjoy poetry, both reading it and listening to it. The thing is, I feel awkward about writing about poetry! I’m never quite sure what to say, it it will make sense.

  3. I think this is pretty darn good advice!!

  4. I greatly want to read this book! I am hoping to buy it for my gentleman caller’s birthday, as he is a poetry fan, but he already loves this one poetry book a LOT, and I don’t want him to feel I’m trying to supplant it in his heart. :p So I’d like it to be as different as possible.

  5. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest « Reflections from the Hinterland

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