Roland Green, Stephen Cushman et al, Eds. Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. 4th Edition.

Cover of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and PoeticsThe Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
is a massive tome, perhaps as much as three or four times the size of the second edition. At 1,639 folio-sized pages of text, and 5.7 lbs, even in softcover, it is cumbersome at best. It’s just as well then that it’s still the ultimate source for data on, as The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics itself notes, “the history, theory, technique, and criticism of poetry from earliest times to the present.” There are over 1,100 alphabetical entries, more than 250 of them new for this edition, in addition to a massive overhaul of extant entries.

This is a much more international reference reference than previous editions, with entries ranging outside the poetry and poetics of Europe and North America, to include terms and forms and poetic traditions (but not poets) from languages like those of the indigenous peoples of the world, African languages, the languages of India, and many of the languages of China. That has meant, in some cases, shorter entries on the more obscure and arcane terms associated with European poetry, but I think the change is a good one. Core entries are still thorough (seven plus densely packed pages on metaphor, for instance).

Another much welcomed change has been the inclusion of an index, and a very thorough index at that, in addition to the alphabetical list of entries divided by general topic preceding the A–Z entries of the Encyclopedia. The typography too is much improved, and while the longer entries are still dense, they are much more readable. Subsection headings are helpful in navigating the individual entries, and cross-references are both numerous and appropriately chosen. Individual entries are by a range of scholars, not just the editors, and they tend to be authorities in their various era and languages specialties (for instance Harvard Celticists Patrick K. Ford and Aled Jones on Celtic Prosody). The bibliographies at the end of each entry have also been updated, making The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics still the authoritative starting place.

There is an ebook version of Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, in both Kindle and ePub formats, which I am curious about, given the slight awkwardness in handling the printed book. You can see some sample entries from the Princeton University Press site as downloadable .pdfs including entries on electronic poetry, rhythm, translation and verse and prose,

(Princeton University Press, 2012)


She plays o' the viol-de-gamboys, speaks three or four languages word for word without book, hath all the good gifts of nature, knows a hawk from a handsaw, and can see a church by daylight. The rest is subject to fancy.

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