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Poetic Closure

A Study of How Poems End

In Poetic Closure, distinguished literary scholar Barbara Herrnstein Smith explores the provocative question: How do poems end? To answer it, Smith examines numerous individual poems and examples of common poetic forms in order to reveal the relationship between closure and the overall structure and integrity of a poem. First published in 1968, Smith’s book remains essential reading in poetic theory.

“Ranging from Elizabethan lyric through free and syllabic verse and concrete poetry, Poetic Closure is a learned, witty, and richly illustrated study of the behavior of poems. . . . It can be read, enjoyed, studied by people who like reading poetry, including—I would suspect—poets.”—Richard M. Elman, New York Times Book Review

306 pages | 5 1/4 x 8 | © 1968


Table of Contents

          I   A Definition of Poetic Structure
         II   The Perception of Poetic Structure
        III   Poetry and Speech
        IV   Poetry, Form, and Integrity
         V   Style and Conventions
        VI   Closure and Stability
Formal Structure and Closure
          I   Introduction
         II   Closure and Formal Conventions: The English
        III   Stanzaic Forms
        IV   The Rhymed Couplet
         V   Blank Verse
        VI   Free Verse
Thematic Structure and Closure
          I   Introduction
         II   Paratactic Structure
        III   Sequential Structure
                    Temporal Sequence
                    Logical and Syntactic Sequences
        IV   Associative and Dialectic Structure
Special Terminal Features
          I   Introduction: Closure and the Sense of Truth
         II   Formal Devices and Nonsytematic Repetition
        III   Puns, Parallelism, and Antithesis
        IV   Thematic Devices: Closural Allusions
         V   Thematic Devices: Unqualified Assertions
        VI   The Poetic Coda
Further Aspects and Problems of Closure
          I   Epigram and Epigrammatic
         II   Failures of Closure
        III   Closure and Anti-Closure in Modern Poetry
        IV   Coda: Beyond Closure

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