Paul Chowder is an aging poet, with one award (a Guggenheim, years ago) and little else to his name. His career is floundering, his girlfriend has moved out, and he has writers block, in fact he will tell you himself "My life is a lie. My career is a joke. I'm a study in failure." His one lifeline is to write the Introduction to an anthology of poetry, called Only Rhyme, and even this he is failing in, he’d like to do it justice, he’d like to to unveil the mysteries of rhyme and metre, but is not sure he’s the right man for the job. He spends his time contemplating the suffering of the great poets throughout history and whether his own angst is enough, he happily discusses the various poetic forms and the problems of iambic pentameter and it’s adverse effects on English-language poetry.Through these musings you learn some of the history of poetry, he will pass on tips to help you write - anything rather than attempt to write himself. All his rambles, discussions, all his procrastination is merely strategy not to write the introduction.
Yet what he reveals is a love for poetry, a love that encompasses not just the greats, your Swinburne's, Tennyson’s, Longfellow, but all those that have followed, regardless of their supposed literary worth.
“Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill. We think so then, we thought so still”. I think that was the very first poem I heard, “The Pelican Chorus” by Edward Lear. My mum read it to me. God it was beautiful. Still is. Those singing Pelicans. They slapped their feet around on those long bars of yellow sand, and they swapped their verb tenses so that then was still and still was then. They were the first to give me a shudder, the shiver the grieving of true poetry--- the feeling that something wasn’t right, but it was all right that it wasn’t right. In fact it was better than if it had been right.”If you love poetry, you will love this book, no prevarication, You Will Love This Book. If poetry was a joy, a love that you put aside as childish whimsy, this will re-introduce you to that love, will spark a curiosity, that will combust to no mere bonfire in your heart.
This was the review that sparked my interest in this novel – A common Reader