The Craft of Poetry: Dialogues on Minimal Interpretation, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Craft of Poetry

Dialogues on Minimal Interpretation, 1st Edition

By Derek Attridge, Henry Staten


168 pages

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This book presents an innovative format for poetry criticism that its authors call "dialogical poetics." This approach shows that readings of poems, which in academic literary criticism often look like a product of settled knowledge, are in reality a continual negotiation between readers. But Derek Attridge and Henry Staten agree to rein in their own interpretive ingenuity and "minimally interpret" poems – reading them with careful regard for what the poem can be shown to actually say, in detail and as a whole, from opening to closure. Based on a series of emails, the book explores a number of topics in the reading of poetry, including historical and intellectual context, modernist difficulty, the role of criticism, and translation. This highly readable book will appeal to anyone who enjoys poetry, offering an inspiring resource for students whilst also mounting a challenge to some of the approaches to poetry currently widespread in the academy.


"Intelligent readers of poetry, F. R. Leavis once suggested, characteristically offer their responses to a poem in the form ‘this is so, isn’t it?’, appealing both for confirmation that their findings are ‘so’, but also expecting and welcoming from their listeners ‘qualifications, reserves, corrections’, in the form ‘yes, but…’. The Craft of Poetry offers a rare opportunity to see in action the processes of dialogic exchange by which two readers can come to a fuller imaginative ‘possession’ of a number of very different poems. Where most academic critical primers tend to present their authors’ cut-and-dried and sometimes over-ingenious ‘interpretations’ of the works under discussion – often by-passing local difficulties and details to co-opt their findings within a pre-ordained and over-arching ideological or moral frameworks – Attridge and Staten show us what it is like for two open-minded readers to puzzle out the meaning and artistry of poems at the indispensable ‘first level’ of engagement. The result is an inspiring and exemplary demonstration of the poetry-reading process ‘in slow motion’." David Hopkins, Professor of English, University of Bristol, UK

"The Craft of Poetry is a valuable reminder that knowledge of poetry involves attentiveness to the created work of art and openness to interpretative dialogue. The authors, Derek Attridge and Henry Staten, stage a thought-provoking series of encounters with a range of lyric poems. Alert and clear, the book points to new, critically rewarding ways of showing what happens (or should happen) when we read poetry.'' Michael O'Neill, Durham University, UK

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction: Dialogical poetics Chapter 1: Minimal interpretation Chapter 2: Figurative language Chapter 3: Historical context Chapter 4: Intellectual and cultural context Chapter 5: Situated subjects Chapter 6: Poetic commentary Chapter 7: Modernist poetry and discursive logic Chapter 8: The poetry of ellipsis Chapter 9: Translation Index

About the Authors

Derek Attridge is Professor of English at the University of York, UK and a Fellow of the British Academy.

Henry Staten is Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor in the Humanities at the University of Washington, USA.

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BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: