About the Book
What’s the point of poetry? It s a question asked in classrooms all over the world, but it rarely receives a satisfactory answer. Which is why so many people, who read all kinds of books, never read poetry after leaving school. Exploring twenty-two works from poets as varied as William Blake, Seamus Heaney, Rita Dove and Hollie McNish, this book makes the case for what poetry has to offer us, what it can tell us about the things that matter in life.
Each poem is discussed with humour and refreshing clarity, using a mixture of anecdote and literary criticism that has been honed over a lifetime of teaching. Poetry can enrich our lives, if we’ll let it. The Point of Poetry is the perfect companion for anyone looking to discover how.
I have a few favourite few poems from over the years but I aren’t much of a reader of poetry generally, I’ve always found it really intimidating. I did discover some love for poetry when I did an A-Level in English Lit as a mature student and was tasked with analysing Philip Larkin’s Mr Bleaney. I loved reading and re-reading this poem, and went on to read everything Larkin had written. I still find other poets intimidating though. The Point of Poetry is a wonderful book that has opened my eyes to the joy of poems.
Joe Nutt opens this book with an introduction that immediately made me feel at ease and in safe hands. He takes away the fear of poetry very quickly. Each chapter looks at a different poem and Nutt takes us through the poem giving some background, relating it to present day and making you eager to actually read the poem for yourself and see what you can discover in it. I loved that the poem discussed is placed at the end of each chapter as by the time I got to it I was excited to read it, whether it was a poem I already knew or one I’d never heard of before.
I also really appreciate that Nutt didn’t just pick well-known poems, although there are some in the book, but also that he didn’t just pick poems that he loves. There are poems such as Vicki Feaver’s The Gun which he has issues with but still felt it warranted being read and explored in this book. The selection really made me think about my own reactions to the poems individually and as a whole as I got further into this book, and left me mulling over my thoughts long after I’d finished reading.
I think the chapter that grabbed me the most was the one about Holly McNish. I’d heard of her before but had never read (or watched her perform) her poetry before. I was fascinated by her poem Famous For What? and am definitely going to buy one or two of her collections very soon. I also very much enjoyed the chapter on Rita Dove’s The Bistro Styx, and the comparisons with Philip Larkin’s Church Going so I will be seeking out more of her work too.
I also want to mention the chapter on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I had to study this poem in my second year at secondary school and I hated it! I loved English, it was my favourite subject and I loved reading but the way the teacher taught us that poem made it feel never-ending and unbearable. I’ve loathed it ever since because it always takes me back to those lessons. However, Nutt’s exploration of this poem has made me see it in a different light – I’ve since sought out my copy and re-reading it now as a 40 year old I found so much more in it and I’m so glad that I had my eyes opened to it.
I’ve always been much more drawn to poems that make me feel something. Often poems that make me cry are the ones that stay with me. I feel like this book has reminded me that different poems bring out different emotions and that I should be more open-minded and actually have more faith in my own abilities to find things in poems from now on.
I do have to quickly mention how beautiful this book is. It’s a gorgeous hardback and the endpapers have a lovely illustration of keys on them (which immediately made me feel that perhaps this book could unlock the world of poetry for me, and it did just that!).
I absolutely loved this book! I feel that it’s given me back the confidence to start picking up more poetry collections again and to spend time reading poems out loud and taking time to really think about them. Not only that, it’s made me excited to read poetry again! I’m so glad I read The Point of Poetry and I whole-heartedly recommend it!
Many thanks to Unbound for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.
The Point of Poetry is out now and available here.
About the Author
Joe Nutt’s nineteen years teaching experience in the UK unusually ranged from the highly selective, private sector to challenging, inner city state schools. In 2000, he was seconded to work on a Department for Education project from his English teaching post at the City of London School and quickly established a new, commercial career but continued to write for English Literature students. He has written books on Shakespeare, John Donne and most recently a Guidebook to Paradise Lost arguably the most difficult poem in the English canon, for one of the world’s leading academic publishers. He publishes educational research internationally and is a national, and international conference speaker. He is now one of the leading educationalists in the UK and writes a fortnightly column for the Times Educational Supplement.
You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:
11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt |@joenutt_author @unbounders @annecater #randomthingstours”
I’ve just read this too, and am similarly inspired, although I know I will never read the Wordsworth he picks! It was my first encounter with Holly McNish and I loved the poem he chose too, as for the Seamus Heaney – that blew me away. I’m not a metrophobe any more (where modern poetry is concerned, less sure about classical).
Love the sound of this Hayley – I do adore poetry but don’t read enough! I’ll look out for it! 😀
What an interesting book, Hayley! And I do like that idea of looking at poetry from the outside like that, and trying to work out what it’s all about.
Thanks for this fabulous blog tour support Hayley x
Oh, I love how this sounds, Hayley, and I love how it has reignited your passion for poetry! ♥️
My god I loved the Ancient Mariner we studied this at primary school. I use to love that! I might have to go and get a copy lol. Glad you enjoyed this book! xx
This sounds excellent: I’m not a big poetry reader after having too much of it in my English O level, A level and degree, and I tend to read it too fast, too, but I do like some poets (John Hegley, Simon Armitage, Wendy Cope, Attila the Stockbroker and feel I ought to pick this up if I see it!
I find poetry intimidating too. I worry I’m not really getting them.
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