As the prize-winning author of four collections, Zapruder has an impressive pedigree, but he’s refreshingly humble and direct here ... Believing all a poem requires is our full attention, Zapruder does skillful close readings of 'The Waste Land,' as well as work by Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson and other masters. He breaks down poems 'literally,' in accessible prose that clarifies their meanings ... Why Poetry casts its net wide and hauls in a splendid bounty. Zapruder quotes sources as diverse as Pope Francis, Pema Chödrön, Keats and Roxane Gay, and moves nimbly from French surrealism to Japanese haiku. He engages deeply with language and meaning and doesn’t shy away from crucial questions of ethics or politics, examining Audre Lorde on racial violence, Amiri Baraka on 9/11, Adrienne Rich on rape ... While intellectually rigorous, his chapters resonate because of currents of personal revelation running alongside the argument.
Is it necessary? Is it designed primarily to be purchased and read by students being introduced to the reasons for and methods of reading poetry? I don’t know ... I understand Zapruder’s interest in preaching to the unconverted. I suspect he is a terrific teacher. His readings of poems are subtle and convincing. I found myself thinking, 'Gosh, I never saw that obvious thing in quite that way before,' many times during my reading, which is precisely what should happen when reading about literature: We are humbled by its operations on our own minds and the need for others to read with us.
The pleasure in Zapruder's book is in going beyond those feelings into an exploration into the hows and whys of poetry. Zapruder acts as a guide showing us some of the epiphanies he experienced as he developed his own craft. It is not a 'how-to' book, so do not be put off if you feel no desire to write poetry. At its core, the book isn't even necessarily about poetry, but is instead a testament to a way of seeing and moving through the world that puts experience and wonder first. It recaptures that which draws us to poetry as children, while showing us the even deeper pleasures we are capable of as adults.