Lyric Cousins, Poetry and Musical Form by Fiona Sampson, A Book Review

 In Poetry

The hardback copy of this fine book is beautiful; the cover image depicting 3 women, stunning. I am a little scared of the book when I receive it as it has been a while since I read any academic writing, but my fears soon disappear when I
open the book. Its introduction is warm, friendly and accessible, both telling you what it is and what it isn’t.

She is, for instance not “claiming to write as a historian” but “thinking only fromthe narrow, particular ground” of her own experience. Her unique life experience as a former musician and a much-celebrated poet mean that Fiona is the perfect person to write such a book.

As a teacher of poetry and poet myself, I find the book a fascinating read. I particular I find her exploration of what verse and music are very intriguing and explained clearly and succinctly, while not being dumbed down:

“The phrase my husband whistles while he does the washing up is music. When
his five-year-old sings a nursery rhyme with half the words and much of the tune
missing, we recognize this, too as music; and indeed as verse.”

The above writing extract epitomizes the book’s approach to the subject of poetry and musical form. It is written using examples that are clear and cut to the point Fiona is making so that there is no doubt as to what she is saying. This
book is perfectly written for everyone from university students, academics to poets wanting to refine their writing. Fiona uses a limited number of examples, going back to them again and again, not because she lacks the examples to back up her work, but because this book is meant as a teaching aid and this is the best way to teach anyone.

There is a lot to love about this book, in particular, her discussion on the different way we take in various art forms, a painting being taken in in one go as opposed to a piece of music, with a clear beginning and ending, and a clear
chronology.

This book confirms 2 things; Fiona’s status as an expert on musicality and poetry and her ability to break up any subject, making it accessible. I would heartily recommend this book as essential reading to anyone, even remotely interested in poetry. This is much more than a simple text book.

The paperback edition is now available to order, priced at a very reasonable £21.19 from Amazon.

Katherine Lockton

 Photo By Ekaterina-Voskresenskaya

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