Poetry For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
Poetry is the practice of creating works of art through language. The study of poetry should include important works that display a bit of the history and evolution of poetry. Poems are written to be read aloud, so follow the helpful reading guidelines offered in this Cheat Sheet. Then, take a poetry pop quiz to test your knowledge and discover some fun facts.

A crash course in poetic history

Poems represent some of the greatest works of literature assembled. Peruse these noteworthy poems to see some of the early creations and how poetry evolved:

  • The Odyssey by Homer

  • Rubaiyat XII by Omar Khayyam

  • “Farewell” by Chao Li-hua

  • Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

  • The Inferno by Dante

  • Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

  • “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman

  • “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass” by Emily Dickinson

  • “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats

  • “Walking Around” by Pablo Neruda

  • “Requiem: 1935–1940” by Anna Akhmatova

  • “Song of the Initiate” by Léopold Sédar Senghor

  • “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

  • “Under a Certain Little Star” by Wislawa Szymborska

  • “Monster Mash” by David Trinidad

How to read a poem aloud

Poems are designed to be read aloud — you’ll get a better experience and understanding of the whole poem. Try these tips for reading poetry out loud:

  • Read silently first.

  • Note surprises and unfamiliar words.

  • Establish a positive, conversational tone.

  • Follow the music.

  • Don’t rush.

  • Pause for emphasis.

  • Treat line endings with care, pausing briefly or raising your tone of voice.

  • Repeat for best results.

Quick poetry quiz

Test your knowledge of poetry by taking this quick quiz. You can learn some cool facts about poets and their works — and impress your friends the next time you get together.

1. Who was the first official U.S. Poet Laureate — Robert Penn Warren, Muriel Rukeyser, Ezra Pound, or Russell Edson?

2. Who was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry — Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sara Teasdale, or Mona Van Duyn?

3. What is said to be the longest poem in world historyThe Mahabharata; Howl by Allen Ginsberg; Paradise Lost by John Milton; or “Poem #312” by Emily Dickinson?

4. Who wrote the poem “Funeral Blues,” which was recited in the movie Four Weddings and A Funeral — Victor Hugo, Amy Clampitt, Pablo Neruda, or W.H. Auden?

5. Which statement about Emily Dickinson is not true?

a. She lived at her parents’ house her entire life.

b. She published fewer than a dozen poems during her lifetime.

c. She was left at the altar.

d. She was a bread judge at the local cattle show.

6. What did Robert Bridges, Thomas Campion, William Carlos Williams, and Henry Vaughan have in common?

7. Which one of these poets doesn’t belong in this group and why?

a. Amenhotep

b. Léopold Sédar Senghor

c. Jimmy Carter

d. William Shakespeare

8. True or False: A line of iambic pentameter must have ten syllables.

9. Name the popular film from 1961 starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty that took its title from William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.” Was it Leaves of Grass, Love Canal, Splendor in the Grass, or The Grapes of Wrath?

10. Connect the place on the left with the poet associated with that place on the right:

Lesbos Charles Baudelaire
Martinique Lorine Niedecker
New Hampshire Sappho
Paris Robert Frost
Wisconsin Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Chicago Aimé Césaire
San Francisco Carl Sandburg

Answers: 1. Robert Penn Warren, in 1986; 2. Sara Teasdale, in 1918; 3. The Mahabharata; 4. W.H. Auden; 5. c; 6. They were all physicians; 7. d (Shakespeare was not a head of state); 8. False; 9. Splendor in the Grass; 10. Lesbos, Sappho; Martinique, Césaire; New Hampshire, Frost; Paris, Baudelaire; Wisconsin, Niedecker; Chicago, Sandburg; San Francisco, Ferlinghetti.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

The Poetry Center in San Francisco sponsors readings and awards and houses a renowned poetry archive. John Timpane, Ph.D., is the author of It Could Be Verse: Anybody's Guide to Poetry. Maureen Watts is a writer and longtime poetry activist who serves on the board of the National Poetry Association

This article can be found in the category: