Written by Eavan Boland and Mark Strand, The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms is truly the beginning and end of all things poetry. It has every form, every meter, every line break, and tons of examples. Each chapter is made up of a single form. Have you ever heard of a villanelle? A sestina? Most haven’t, and this book breaks them down. It also gives lots of terminology, like stanza, line break, and explains them in a way that doesn’t confuse or run the reader in circles.
At the beginning of each chapter, there is a big history section that discusses the origin of each form and the various examples throughout history. It is particularly interesting when discussing poetry in free verse. It answers the question: “Why isn’t free verse just fancy prose?” Also, it talks about fun factoids like a ballad can be sung to “Amazing Grace.” You will have lots of new things to discuss with your friends at a party.
When reading any kind of literary criticism (especially a Norton Anthology) the book can get wordy, confusing, and very dull. Boland and Strand break that droning tone and get the reader excited about poetry. The Sestina for example, is one of the most complex poem forms. It has many specific rules and is very complex. Reading it, though, is easy and very broken down as to not lose the reader. They want the reader to understand and love the Sestina as they do, and that shows in their writing.
When you are done reading The Making of a Poem, you will fully understand how to absorb poetry. You may still need a bit of help with imagery and complex layers of meaning, which is only natural, but you will come away with the ability to look at a Sonnet and understand the 12 lines, read the rhyme scheme. You will know that “Do Not Go Gentle” by Dylan Thomas is a villanelle just by looking at its structure. This book truly shows us how to appreciate poetry and anyone who wants to read poetry without confusion needs, it on their book shelf.