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The Art of the Poetic Line

James Longenbach
"Poetry is the sound of language organized in lines." James Longenbach opens this provocative book with that essential statement. Through a range of examples—from Shakespeare and Milton to Ashbery and Gluck—Longenbach describes the function of line in metered, rhymed, syllabic, and free-verse poetry. That function is sonic, he argues, and our true experience of it can only be identified in relation to other elements in a poem. Syntax and the interaction of different kinds of line endings are primary to understanding line, as are the relationship and differences of lineated poems to prose poetry. The Art of the Poetic Line is a vital new resource by one of America's most important critics and one of poetry's most engaging practitioners.

Praise for James Longenbach:

"A sensibility this cogent, this subtle and austere is rare; even rarer is its proof that poetry still flows through all things and transforms all things in the process."—Carol Muske-Dukes,Los Angeles Times Book Review

". . . one of our finest poet/critics."—Edward Hirsch

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A seminal study of the line—its shape, its music, its essential rhythms—by one of the finest poetry critics, James Longenbach

About the Author

James  Longenbach
Credit: Adam Fenster
James Longenbach is the author of three poetry collections, including Draft of a Letter, and six works of criticism, including The Art of the Poetic Line and The Resistance to Poetry, as well as numerous essays and reviews. He is Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester.
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  • “[The Art of the Poetic Line] is almost airlessly packed with intelligent observation on the nature and possibilities of the poetic line. It’s straightforward, absolutely clear, bursting with information that will scoop up and hold the attention of a smart poet, want-to-be poet, or dedicated poetry reader. . . . You should read The Art of the Poetic Line; it’s a remarkable book.”—The Literary Review
  • “A much-admired academic critic and poet, Longenbach contributes to this useful new series of pocket-sized writing guides with clear, swift prose.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “An absolute must-read for poets and would-be poets of all walks of life.”—The Midwest Book Review
  • “The book consists almost entirely of close readings of short passages, without any generalizations about themes, genres, forms, or theoretical issues—although Longenbach does cogently trace the evolution of various strategies of lineation.”—The Georgia Review
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