Buying the Fundamentals of Poetry

The book I’ve owned the longest is the Fundamentals of Poetry, a 32-page paperback I bought in the eighth grade. It’s water-stained and worn, but it has outlasted so many other books and moves.

I bought Fundamentals, published by The Language Kit Company of Chicago, through school. A teacher long ago wrote my first initial and Medeiros, the last name I was born with, on the front cover before she handed it to me.

I wanted to be a poet then, or at least understand how poetic English language works. I was fortunate to take a weekly creative writing class in fifth grade. Mr. Graves taught us about metaphors and similes, and how to use them. Unfortunately, my classroom teachers for the next few years didn’t.

The book is divided into these topics: meter; verse forms; devices of sound; devices of sense; stanza forms; special stanza forms; and poems for analysis.

So the dactylic foot contains three syllables with the stress on the first — like happiness and young again. And personification is the “giving of human characteristics to inanimate objects, ideas, or animals” such as a line from Sara Teasdale, “Bright April shakes out her rain-drenched hair.” At the end of the book, the reader is supposed to analyze Tenneyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

When I once was a poet, I used free verse, which “consists of lines that do not have a regular meter and do not contain rhyme.” Now, I write fiction. And, although I skip the parts about meter and verse forms, I still find this slim book as helpful as a ….


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