'52 Ways of Looking at a Poem' by Ruth Padel (Vintage) is Poet-in-Residence's recommended book for this month. The book, as its title indicates, contains a poem for each week of the year. Padel takes these poems week by week and gives her views on them. She tells the reader what she finds in the poems; and what they mean to her and perhaps to the person who wrote them. Importantly she conceeds that there are no hard and fast rules to the reading of poetry and that each and every reader may have his own views and interpretations. As Padel says '...the door is always open', and it is good that it is so.
In the first 50 pages or so Padel explains the rules or non-rules of poetry, what she calls 'the partnership of sound and sense' and gives an historical account of the developement of poetry in England. Jo Shapcott writes that the introductory chapter will come to be seen 'as the summary of the age'. P-i-R has no arguement with that.
The poets whose poems come under the Padel microscope range through the modern poetic spectrum, from Fleur Adcock to C K Williams, taking in such famous names as Paul Muldoon, Sean O'Brien, Tom Paulin, Carol Ann Duffy, Fred D'Aguiar, Sharon Olds and Thom Gunn (just to mention a few at random).
Last month Poet-in-Residence highly recommended the late Nicholas Albery edited volume 'Poem for the Day' (Chatto & Windus). With that one plus this one you'll have what George Steiner calls 'a wealth of insight' and the keys to a wonderful poetic future.