How to Read a Poem
Buy Rights Online Buy Rights

Rights Contact Login For More Details

More About This Title How to Read a Poem


Lucid, entertaining and full of insight, How To Read A Poem is designed to banish the intimidation that too often attends the subject of poetry, and in doing so to bring it into the personal possession of the students and the general reader.

  • Offers a detailed examination of poetic form and its relation to content.
  • Takes a wide range of poems from the Renaissance to the present day and submits them to brilliantly illuminating closes analysis.
  • Discusses the work of major poets, including John Milton, Alexander Pope, John Keats, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, W.B. Yeats, Robert Frost, W.H.Auden, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, and many more.
  • Includes a helpful glossary of poetic terms.


Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. His recent publications include The English Novel (2004), Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (2003), The Idea of Culture (2000), Scholars and Rebels in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (1999), Literary Theory: An Introduction (Second Edition, 1996) and The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996), all published by Blackwell Publishing.




1. The Functions of Criticism.

The End of Criticism?.

Politics and Rhetoric.

The Death of Experience.

2. What is Poetry?.

Poetry and Prose.

Poetry and Morality.

Poetry and Fiction.

Poetry and Pragmatism.

Poetic Language.

3. Formalists.



The Semiotics of Yury Lotman.

The Incarnational Fallacy.

4. In Pursuit of Form.

The Meaning of Form.

Form Versus Content.

Form as Transcending Content.

Poetry and Performance.

Two American Examples.

5. How to Read a Poem.

Is Criticism Just Subjective.


Tone, Mood and Pitch.

Intensity and Pace.


Syntax, Grammar and Punctuation.




Rhythm and Metre.


6. Four Nature Poems.

‘Ode to Evening’.

‘The Solitary Reaper’.

‘God’s Grandeur’.

‘Fifty Faggots’.




"The wit he brings to the task of helping readers read poems will, for some readers (myself included), be a source of pleasure." (Notes and Queries, June 2010)

“From the first page, the reader of How to Read a Poem realises that this, at last, is a book which begins to answer Adrian Mitchell's charge: 'Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people'. Eagleton introduces himself as 'a politically minded literary theorist'. The remarkable achievement of this book is to prove that such a theorist is the only person who can really show what poetry is for. By a brilliant and scrupulous series of readings - of Yeats and Frost and Auden and Dickinson - framed in a lively account of the function of criticism as perhaps only he could expound it, Eagleton shows how literary theory, seriously understood, is the ground of poetic understanding. This will be the indispensable apology for poetry in our time.”
Bernard O'Donoghue, Wadham College, Oxford

"With energy and wit, Eagleton proves once and for all that close readers and theoretical readers should be partners rather than enemies." John Redmond, Liverpool University

"...lucid and engaging...Eagleton's book 'designed as an introduction to poetry for students and general readers', is a breath of fresh air." Marjorie Perloff, TLS, Books of the Year

“Eagleton raises many interesting points” Choice

“A how-to book with an agenda. Smart, witty and provocative ... How to Read a Poem challenges us not only to look again at poetic form, but also to bring aesthetics back into our discussions fo what makes a poem worth studying. We may not agree with Eagleton, but we would do well to accept his challenge."

College Literature

The Times