textetc index pageOverview

Text Etc deals with the craft and theory of poetry: composition, analysis and improvement of literary work, including translation and the creation of good copies of well-known poems.

Though begun as a writer's workbook — notes, references, arguments that need thinking about — I have now reorganized the material, grouping previously scattered pages in two broad categories, traditional poetry and Modernist. The categories are not clear-cut, but may help students and poetry newcomers to grasp the essentials points before reading further.


The specific aims of the site are to:

1. Broaden the meaning and scope of poetry, beyond what now appears in publisher's lists and the small presses, which caters for a diminishing portion of the reading public.

2. Show that the poetry that was once well known and well loved is equally supported by aesthetic theory — that brain-functioning, metaphor theory, linguistics, hermeneutics and aesthetics do in fact provide new avenues for writing and appreciation.

3. Suggest why serious poetry has become an institutionalized subculture, the preserve of contending and somewhat autistic communities.

4. Provide worked examples of craft and theory demonstrating the depth and continuity of the art form, through the centuries and across cultural divides: poetry as it was once written.

In this July 2015 update I have slimmed existing material a little, and removed dead links when not acting as references to articles (then shown as NNA: not now available). I have not generally expanded the resources sections because maintaining extended lists is becoming a thankless task. Many national collections are rearranged without redirects, and readers will do better to make their own Internet searches as and when needed.

Though critical theory no longer has its novel appeal, the much-disliked contemporary poetry sections have been retained because serious poetry and its evaluation are still constrained by notions that a little reading in contemporary science and philosophy should seriously question.

Site Layout

This is the home page, which also introduces the other sections.

In the Traditional section I have placed what commonly appeared in poetry textbooks, including the elements of verse, and what is wrong (and right) with amateur poetry.

The Modernist section is the most heterogeneous, being essays on various phases and styles of Modernist poetry, some snapshot views of the current scene, and an extended sociological analysis of the avant garde.

The Theory section can be hard going, but is needed to understand contemporary poetry, and to explore some tangles into which it seems to have fallen. It is literary theory from a wide perspective.

In the Criticism section I look at a poem from various critical aspects, some traditional and some less so. The poem analyzed is my own, which allows me to be more critical than would be otherwise acceptable.

The Workshop section sets out the steps and considerations which I have found to be the most useful in composing and shaping a poem. The focus is on practical matters, and the belief is that by actually writing poetry, the reader will learn more than by wrestling with literary theory or criticism. A first section takes selected chunks of poems, analyses how they were written, and attempts something similar. A second section deals with translations, from ten languages into English. A third section covers the writing of new poems, in a variety of styles. A fourth shows how poets improved their work by revision.

The Exhibits section serves to complete poems started in the Workshop section, and exhibit pieces that illustrate peripheral matters.

The Resources section provides extensive listings — once the fullest anywhere, but probably now overtaken by other sites, which are listed — of poetry magazines, publishers, events, competitions, bulletin boards, critiquing services, and sites providing dictionaries, thesaurus, guides to style and rhetoric, etc.

In introducing these pages, I hope it will be understood that they do not form a teaching course, or source of literary authority, or any 'how it's done' demonstrations. They are simply jottings that have helped me to think through certain difficulties in my own work, and may on that account be useful to others. The material has grown without much design, but I have now arranged matters under linked categories, imposing a structure that may help readers gain some perspective and locate things of interest. To that end, I have extended coverage in some areas, most obviously in the Resources section.

The tone will seem sharper and more categorical than the situation warrants. My background is technical research in commerce and industry, where matters have to be simplified for a lay audience, and specific recommendations made. The nuanced literary essay will not serve for that world, and what I am writing here is also more in the nature of notes, with the Internet user in mind. With clarity comes the danger of misrepresentation, but I have tried for a balanced view, adding references to indicate where fuller arguments can be found. On all these matters there are qualifications, lurking complexities, and downright disagreement. In literary preferences we are very much individuals, and I apologize in advance for questioning what many poets and critics not only hold passionately, but have made into articles of faith. In general, rather than take sides, I have tried to explore the territories surrounding the current battles to see if better perspectives can be gained by seeing poetry over many centuries of its development.

The sections can be referenced through page headings, which always take readers to a general introduction page, which has a site search box (below) and a table of pages in the section. The footer contains links to the home page, site map and other pages in the section. You may wish to note that all material on the site can be used freely for non-commercial purposes if cited in the usual way.

C. John Holcombe 2013 2015 2016|  About the Author

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