Poetic Designs: An Introduction to Meters, Verse Forms, and Figures of Speech
There are numerous introductions to poetry and prosody available, but none at once so comprehensive and so accessible as this. With the increasing emphasis on free verse, the past generation has developed a widespread impression that the study of poetic meter is old fashioned—or even that form ‘doesn’t matter’ in poetry. It is an impression that has not been dispelled by the emphasis of some of the existing texts in the area on forms that are now rare or outmoded. The irony is that simultaneously in the past decade interest in formal matters among many poets and literary scholars has been on the increase; the reality is that prosody is today on the cutting edge of literary studies.
Stephen Adams’ text provides a full treatment of traditional topics, from the iambic pentameter through other accentual-syllabic rhythms (trochaic, dactylic and so on) and covering as well other metrical types, stanza structure, the sonnet and other standard forms. Adams also includes a variety of topics not covered in most other introductions to the topic; perhaps most significantly, he provides a full chapter on form in free verse. Moreover, he treats rhyme extensively and includes a comprehensive chapter on literary figures. Poetic Designs is thus much more that an introduction to prosody; it is a concise but comprehensive introduction to the nature of poetry in English. It is a book for the general reader and the aspiring writer as well as for the student, a book intended (in the words of the author) to help ‘heighten the experience of poetry.’