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Thanks for this Och. I can't believe the inflation that's gone on with used 4th editions since I got mine.

Many blessings!

For those who finish Understanding Poetry, there is also The Well Wrought Urn, where Brooks sort of completes his argument and gives more examples.

I followed the link from here to Amazon and simply could not believe how much Understanding Poetry costs there. I was interested in perhaps acquiring a 4th edition since I checked my own after reading this thread and found I have a 3rd.

The 4th editions can be a bit pricey, but you can get a 3rd for 10 bucks (including s & h). The place to go is . That is also the place to go for The Well Wrought Urn, which you can get for just a few bucks in mass market, and less than 10 for a trade paperback. Well worth it.

I wish some of the publishers of the zillion and a half bad translations of Orthodox liturgical texts would do something like that.

Well, Ryan, I think the visual arts are as "sucked in" as poetry. I hope that the good poetry that is critiqued and published in The New Criterion is not so seldom. It seems that First Things has a pretty good eye for poems as well.

I am denouncing the echo chamber of the poetry prize winners and bestowers, and workshop producers and consumers who have bought into the "theory" agenda.

However, it may be that this agenda is so frothy that we do not need to worry so much about its staying power or even its effects. The dangerous poems are those that can be memorized: the MLA-imprimatured sort of poetry militates against memorization. Indeed, "poems" celebrated in theory seminars cannot even be said out loud.

At least, not in English.

Our poor education is one thing, but I think the other part of the problem is that, more than the other arts, English poetry became sucked into avant-garde gimmicks throughout the last century. And while many people today enjoy Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats etc., anyone attempting to write in their vein today would be considered hopelessly archaic, passe, superseded. Good poetry is seldom published anymore, and when it is, the audience usually consists entirely of other poets.

Thank you, Mary, for this, and I'm privileged that you wrote this on my pages.


Were we like the reptile we dread
for its reputation as instigate of our sin,
we happily would have smooth, new skin
replace the wrinkled old we cannot shed.

But it works the other way with us,
our heads rock on creases that fold in.
Our faces hang an upside down grin.
We wear everything that passes to us

On the outside as well as within;
the curse of our first parents sloughed
off only by way of the glorious cross
that briefly wore imperishable skin.

I think the 4th edition is the latest. It is the one I have. I don't think there are any later or better.

Is there a particular edition of Understanding Poetry that you recommend?

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