When I first read the precis of Joe Nutt’s The Point of Poetry, I wanted to read it. I’m a poetry gal – read it, write it, love it.

Like a great piece of art or music, a poem that resonates is worth its weight in gold and Nutt’s book is a good introduction to a contained selection of such works, from classics such as Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18’ and Milton’s wonderful epic poem Paradise Lost to more modern pieces like spoken word poet Holly McNish’s topical ‘Famous for what?’ and former Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Mrs Midas’.

It’s a handsomely produced, well thought out book, well written and accessible, and Nutt’s obvious love for his subject is clear to see. And yet if I have one slight criticism, it’s that the poems analysed, while all wonderful, are fairly conservative and don’t represent the extremely diverse culture within which we live. And that might put some readers off, which would be a shame.

I’ve loved poetry from the time my beloved mama gave me a luridly orange, laminated children’s compendium which married kings and queens of England and Scotland with poems. I must have been about 8 or 9 at the time and reading Keats at the end of an essay on Mary Queen of Scots just transported me, why I can’t tell you – most of the language I didn’t understand, yet there I was hooked.

Over the years, Sylvia Plath lived with me, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker carried me, Wilfred Owen moved me and Gil Scott-Heron energised me, as I listened to Nick Cave and wept to the beauty of wordsmith Elliott Smith, their lyrics poems by another name. That’s what beautiful words should do – make you feel, take you to places you haven’t been before, make you think, as you recognise your circumstances, your otherness in someone else’s experience, in their creativity. And, perhaps Nutt’s volume, as a good general introduction to the subject, will be the stepping stone to those kind of experiences for people who previously may have found poetry inaccessible. I hope so. There are galaxies of beautiful poems out there. Pick one and see.




The Point of Poetry | Joe Nutt | Unbound | March 2019 | hardback |

Please support your local bookshops and libraries.


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour – many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and the publisher for sending us a book proof and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

Also of interest: ‘Sylvia Plath interviewed in 1962‘; ‘Poems that make grown men cry‘; ‘I am half agony, half hope‘;‘Falling from the Floating World’; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland‘; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.