Subjects in Poetry

Daniel Brown
Published in 2021
by Louisiana State University Press

In this book examining poetic subject matter, poet and critic Daniel Brown begins by acknowledging the elusive nature of the topic: “The subject of subjects in poetry is like a mountain you’re standing at the base of: so huge you can fail to see it unless you look upward,” he writes. Through clear examples and critical analyses of the works of poets such as Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, and David Kirby, Brown identifies how the subject of a poem affects its making. In the first chapter of the book, Brown argues that a poem can say something either by expressing, evoking, or addressing, and analyzing these ways opens a vast range of possible subjects for poems. The concluding chapter titled “Working with Subjects” offers guidance for poets to find and improve upon their subject matter and fulfill the potential of their work with helpful tips such as sketching a poem’s line of thought to see where it is headed or adjusting the poem’s subject to more clearly identify an emotional core. Both practical and challenging, Subjects in Poetry is a rare exploration into one of poetry’s most underexplored elements of craft.   

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