A Little History of Poetry John Carey

Series:
Little Histories
Format:
Hardback
Publication date:
10 Mar 2020
ISBN:
9780300232226
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
320 pages: 216 x 140mm
Illustrations:
40 b-w illus.
Sales territories:
World

A vital, engaging, and hugely enjoyable guide to poetry, from ancient times to the present, by one of our greatest champions of literature

What is poetry? If music is sound organized in a particular way, poetry is a way of organizing language. It is language made special so that it will be remembered and valued. It does not always work—over the centuries countless thousands of poems have been forgotten. This little history is about some that have not.

John Carey tells the stories behind the world’s greatest poems, from the oldest surviving one written nearly four thousand years ago to those being written today. Carey looks at poets whose works shape our views of the world, such as Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Whitman, and Yeats. He also looks at more recent poets, like Derek Walcott, Marianne Moore, and Maya Angelou, who have started to question what makes a poem "great" in the first place. This little history shines a light on the richness and variation of the world’s poems—and the elusive quality that makes them all the more enticing.

John Carey is emeritus professor at Oxford. His books include The Essential “Paradise Lost,” What Good Are the Arts?, studies of Donne and Dickens, and a biography of William Golding. The Unexpected Professor, his memoir, was a Sunday Times best-seller.

“An elegant history of poetry, what it is, what it does, why it matters, written in an authoritative and engaging voice. Masterly.”—Ruth Padel, author of 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem


“Warm in tone, informative, generous in its sympathies, inviting in its choices, with a clear emphasis on human stories underpinning poetic achievement.”—Emma Smith, author of This is Shakespeare


“This wonderfully positive and vivid history is a delight on every page ... Carey’s sparkling Little History of Poetry is an astonishingly full introduction to English poetry from Beowulf to the present, set in a framework extending in place and time from Gilgamesh to Akhmatova and Seferis.”—Bernard O'Donoghue, Winner of the Whitbread Poetry Award


“Here is an informative, fast-moving book … Like Carey’s previous works, it’s forceful as well as clear, and it’s populist, no-nonsense and anti-elite in its sympathies. Many people may find new favourites here.”—Stephanie Burt, Professor of English, Harvard University


“Books about poetry are rarely page turners, but Carey’s little history is gripping, is unputdownable! Reading this book and its galaxy of poets is like looking up at the sky and seeing the whole wheeling and constellated universe.”—Daljit Nagra, author of Look We Have Coming to Dover!