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Poetry: How to Read and Analyse Poetry

5. Layout

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the physical layout of poetry on the page (or screen), beginning with the various conventions of formatting, but moving on to think about the various shape-poems (including George Herbert’s ‘Easter-Wings’) and other poems that have experimented with the layout of their poetry on the page.

Poetry Credits:

George Herbert, 'Easter-wings', from The Temple. Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (Cambridge: Thomas Buck & Roger Daniel, 1633).

Alan Riddell, 'Sea Story', from Eclipse: Concrete Poems (London: Calder & Boyars, 1972).

John Hollander, 'Skeleton key', 'The thread of life', 'Swan and shadow', all from Types of Shape (1967; new and expanded ed., New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1991).

W. D. Snodgrass, 'Albert Speer, Armaments Minister -- 20 April 1945, 2200 hours', and 'Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuehrer SS, Former Commander, Army Group Vistula -- 15 April 1945', both from The Fuehrer Bunker: The Complete Cycle (Brockport, NY: BOA Editions, 1995).

Christopher Logue, War Music: An Account of Books 16-19 of Homer's Iliad (1981; London: Faber & Faber, 1988), pp. 29-32.


In this course, Professor John Lennard talks through the craft of poetry in a course that draws on his international bestseller, The Poetry Handbook, which has been a favourite with both sixth-form students and undergraduates since its first publication in 1996. As we move through the course, we look at every technical aspect of poetry, including metre, form, layout, lineation, rhyme, diction, syntax, before thinking about how much readers of poetry should draw on historical and biographical context when analysing and interpreting poetry.

Throughout the course, technical discussion of poetry is richly illustrated with examples from some of the greatest poets in the English language, including: William Shakespeare, George Herbert, John Donne, Andrew Marvell, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Wilfred Owen, W. B. Yeats, Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, and Derek Walcott.


Born in Bristol, and educated at Oxford and St Louis, Dr John Lennard has taught English, American, and Commonwealth Literature in Cambridge, London, and Jamaica over more than twenty years. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has been a popular Summer School Course Leader and lecturer for the Institute of Continuing Education since 1992.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lennard, J. (2018, August 15). Poetry: How to Read and Analyse Poetry - Layout [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Poetry: How to Read and Analyse Poetry – Layout." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,