How Poems Think


In September 2015, the University of Chicago Press will publish my book about poetry, How Poems Think.  


In it, I present a gallery of texts and examples of poetic devices, strategies, and techniques, as well as thoughts about the poet’s stance toward language and toward his or her own temperament.  I explore rhyme, metonymy, etymology, and other elements of poetry not simply as part of the rhetoric and technique of poetry but as modes of thinking and feeling. Of course, to write or read a poem is often to think in distinctively poetic ways—guided by metaphors, sound, rhythms, associative movement, and more.  And poetry’s own stance toward language creates a particular intelligence of thought and feeling, a compressed articulation that expands inner experience, imagining with words what cannot always be imagined without them. Through translation, particularly, poetry has diversified poetic traditions.  I also show how some of poetry’s ways of thinking that we might think are essentially modern in fact begin in the ancient world and simply remain potent across the centuries even into our own time.  


In my gallery I use poetic texts by Sappho, Pindar, Shakespeare, Keats, William Carlos Williams, Marina Tsvetaeva, Odysseus Elytis, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mahmoud Darwish, and many others.