Tom Paulin - The Secret Life of Poems (2 stars)

Tom Paulin - The Secret Life of Poems



The extent to which you’re likely to enjoy Tom Paulin’s The Secret Life of Poems depends entirely on what you’re hoping to get out of it. If you’re looking for a ‘poetry primer’ (as the book is billed) that breaks down every verse into its minute component parts – its trochees, cretics, molossus and feet – and explains why they are so arranged, the book is likely to be a useful and possibly enlightening tool.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something that might make reading poetry more enjoyable, you’re likely to be disappointed. Of the 47 poems, only two are by women (Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti) which suggests Paulin thinks few female poets are worthy of his scholastic study. Snobbery, perhaps, but whatever the reason, their exclusion from the primer means they’ve been spared Paulin’s goings-over that, to my mind, deaden the poets and their work.

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