Bernard O'Donoghue (Emeritus Fellow, Wadham College, Oxford)

In this Very Short Introduction Bernard O’Donoghue explores the many different forms of writing which have been called ‘poetry’, from the Greeks to the present day. He considers the varying status and uses of poetry, and engages with contemporary debates as to what value poetry holds today.

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Poetry, arguably, has a greater range of conceptual meaning than perhaps any other term in English. At the most basic level everyone can recognise it-it is a kind of literature that uses special linguistic devices of organization and expression for aesthetic effect. However, far grander claims have been made for poetry than this-such as Shelley’s that the poets ‘are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’, and that poetry is ‘a higher truth’. In this Very Short Introduction, Bernard O’Donoghue provides a fascinating look at the many different forms of writing which have been called ‘poetry’-from the Greeks to the present day. As well as questioning what poetry is, he asks what poetry is for, and considers contemporary debates on its value. Is there a universality to poetry? And does it have a duty of public utility and responsibility? ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Additional information

Weight 132 g
Dimensions 17.4 × 11.1 × 1 cm


Oxford University Press





xvi, 144




First Edition


809.1 (edition:23)


College – higher education / Code: F