An Introduction to Poetic Forms offers specimen discussions of poems through the lens of form. While each of its chapters does provide a standard definition of the form in question in its opening paragraphs, their main objective is to provide readings of specific examples to illustrate how individual poets have deviated from or subverted those expectations usually associated with the form under discussion. While providing the most vital information on the most widely taught forms of poetry, then, this collection will very quickly demonstrate that counting syllables and naming rhyme schemes is not the be-all and end-all of poetic form. Instead, each chapter will contain cross-references to other literary forms and periods as well as make clear the importance of the respective form to the culture at large: be it the democratising communicative power of the ballad or the objectifying male gaze of the blazon and resistance to same in the contreblazon - the efficacy of form is explored in the fullness of its cultural dimensions.
In using standard definitions only as a starting point and instead focusing on lively debates around the cultural impact of poetic form, the textbook helps students and instructors to see poetic forms not as a static and lifeless affair but as living, breathing testament to the ongoing evolution of cultural debates. In the final analysis, the book is interested in showing the complexities and contradictions inherent in the very nature of literary form itself: how each concrete example deviates from the standard template while at the same time employing it as a foil to generate meaning.