Tag Archives: Criticism

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