Books About Poetry

Books Discussing Poetry Itself

I have read a lot of books discussing poetry, but the two I have listed here I consider seminal.


This Craft of Verse by Jorge Luis Borges

The first book about poetry that caught my attention was This Craft of Verse by Jorge Luis Borges. It is a marvelous book and represents Borges distillation of thoughts on poetry based on a lifetime of reading, writing poetry  and writing about poetry, prose, and other things. It is a simple, straight forward, and humble set of thoughts delightfully delivered.


A Treatise on Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

This book is one man’s search for the meaning of poetry and politics and their influences upon one another. It is written by a poet who lived through some of the most horrific history of this century, and it is written in the form of a poem.

The poem itself takes up only half of the pages in the book; the remaining pages are devoted to an extensive set of notes by the author.

Milosz accomplishes a marvel. In a mere sixty page poem, written almost fifty years ago, he gives answers to many questions that might be troubling poets in this country at this moment, and he does it in poetry.

Books Discussing the Reading of Poetry


The Best Poems of the English Language by Harold Bloom

I finished this after three months of reading on almost a daily basis, and I can say it was another poetry course for me, as good as anything I encountered from The Great Courses.

I came away from this book with several lessons and impressions from Bloom. He clearly loves great poetry, and great poetry for him must above all be imaginative, meaning that it truly creates, does something new, engages new material.


Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World’s Best Poems

This is a delightful book for those who like and read a fair amount of poetry. Camille Paglia, a Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and, interestingly, a former student of Harold Bloom’s at Yale, takes 43 of her favorite poems, many of them among my favorites too, from the past and the present, and gives them what is known as “close readings,” meaning that for each poem of a page or two, she gives three or more pages of commentary.

For anyone with an interest in poetry, this is definitely a book not to be missed.

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