A glossary is useful, welcome, sometimes fun, but rarely, if ever, a catalyst for astonishment. Leave it to revered poet, poetry apostle, and glossator extraordinaire Hirsch (The Living Fire
, 2010) to turn this humble resource into a vibrant, polyglot, world-circling, century-spanning, mind-expanding work of profound scholarship and literary art. Hirsch demonstrated his glossarial gift in his best-selling How to Read a Poem
(1999), launching the passionate and sustained immersion in world poetry’s vocabulary, genres, and theory brought to fruition here. Lush with poem excerpts and poet profiles, the longer entries on such subjects as the epic and free verse possess the contextual richness and narrative drive of master lectures, while the more concise definitions are models of clarification. The result is a uniquely vital, cogent, conversational, and inclusive inquiry into the craft, philosophical concerns, and emotional intensity that gave rise to oral and written traditions, diverse movements, and many “small devices and large mysteries.” Hirsch defines any term in English you can think of and many more, along with ghinnawa
, a form of Bedouin folk poetry; the Sanskrit term rasa, denoting the “soul of poetry”; and shan-shui
, China’s rivers-and-mountain verse. A thrilling “repertoire of poetic secrets,” this radiant compendium is shaped by Hirsch’s abiding gratitude for the demands and power, illumination, and solace of poetry, “a human fundamental.”
— Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
Offering definitions, a discussion of poetic techniques, and an unalloyed spiritual quality to his work...This compilation of stimulating information and of beautiful writing by a master of expression is for all who love language, not just poets.
— Library Journal (Starred Review)
To page through A Poet's Glossary
is to be blissfully bewildered… [It is] a thoughtful, accessible volume that is, as Horace would have it, sweet and useful. In an age of anonymous, collaborative online dictionaries, it is heartening to read one poet's dictionary, distinctively alive to the deep histories and vital words that make poetry what it is.
— Joseph Campana, Houston Chronicle