Why Poetry Matters Jay Parini

Why X Matters Series
Publication date:
15 May 2009
Yale University Press
224 pages: 197 x 133 x 14mm
Sales territories:

A brief, passionate book about the nature of poetry and its use in the world

Poetry doesn’t matter to most people, observes Jay Parini at the opening of this book. But, undeterred, he commences a deeply felt meditation on poetry, its language and meaning, and its power to open minds and transform lives. By the end of the book, Parini has recovered a truth often obscured by our clamorous culture: without poetry, we live only partially, not fully conscious of the possibilities that life affords. Poetry indeed matters.

A gifted poet and acclaimed teacher, Parini begins by looking at defenses of poetry written over the centuries. He ponders Aristotle, Horace, and Longinus, and moves on through Sidney, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Eliot, Frost, Stevens, and others. Parini examines the importance of poetic voice and the mysteries of metaphor. He argues that a poet’s originality depends on a deep understanding of the traditions of political poetry, nature poetry, and religious poetry.

Writing with a casual grace, Parini avoids jargon and makes his case in concise, direct terms: the mind of the poet supplies a light to the minds of others, kindling their imaginations, helping them to live their lives. The author’s love of poetry suffuses this insightful book—a volume for all readers interested in a fresh introduction to the art that lies at the center of Western civilization.

Read more about Jay Parini, writer and academic. He is known for novels and poetry, biography and criticism. Parini's 1990 Novel "The Last Station" has been adapted into a major motion picture and is to be released in January 2010.

"It is obvious that Parini has a great love of poetry and regrets that more people do not share it."
-William Palmer, The Independent

"Jay Parini's book is a pleasant, sympathetic book ... by way of a primer for the uninitiated ... designed to invite the uncertain to come closer."
-Harry Clifton, The Irish Times

"Why Poetry Matters offers itself as a timely, passionate defence of the poetic. The book ranges far and wide with chapters on poetry’s engagement with voice, metaphor, tradition, politics, religion, and the natural world."
-Matthew Bevis, Modernism/Modernity Vol.17

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