Bottom-Line: I highly recommend "Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry" not only to aspiring and seasoned poets, but for readers of poetry as well.
I am a writer. I am a Poet; there I've said it (deep breath); I weaver of words, a spinner of tales, and to hear my wife tell it, a wordsmith. It took me a long time after I started writing poetry for me to finally claim the title as my own. I wrote poetry but I did not feel like a poet; I was not and am not classically trained in the arcane art of poetry. My degrees are in Leadership and Business Administration not Fine Arts. When I first started writing poetry I had no idea what an Iambic meter, Iambic Pentameter, or even a meter were when speaking of poetic creation. I wrote my poetry from the heart and soul not caring about the "rules" of writing poetry.
But then my wife suggested that I might want to actually study the mechanics of poetry in order to better understand the art-form. She suggested that I might want to pick up a copy of what is widely regarded as the definitive guide to writing and understanding poetry: "Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry" by Thomas R. Arp. I picked up the ninth edition of this seminal book.
"Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry" is a relatively thin volume considering the subject matter, checking in at 412 pages, and is divided into two sections: Part 1 The Elements of Poetry, and; Part 2 Poems for Further Reading.
"Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry" is not casual reading, it is at its core and test book meant to teach, to mentor the reader in the foundations of writing poetry. The author not only lays out the case for poetic creation, but also give examples of what he is trying to relate; poetry is sprinkled like marker posts throughout the book pointing you in the right poetic direction.
Another was "Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry" is like a test book is that it asks question of the reader about a poem given as an example in the book; for example after Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem The Eagle, the book asks the following questions:
1. What is peculiarly effective about the expression "crooked hands," "Close to the sun," "Ringed with the azure world," "wrinkled," "crawls," and "like a thunderbolt"?
2. Notice the formal pattern of the poem, particularly the contrast of "the stands" in the first stanza and "he falls" in the second. Is there any other contrast between the two stanzas?
For anyone unfamiliar with The Eagle, by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892) here it is:
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure worlds, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from the mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
By asking question, and then answering them of course, the reader is led to a better understanding of poetry and the way in which different poet's covey their message within the parameters of fixed poetic rules. In "Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry" the author, in the case Thomas R. Arp (Laurence Perrine was too ill to update this edition) lays out a rule or argument, gives an example of that rule in the form of a poem, and then asks questions of the reader to broaden, or tighten their understanding of the concepts presented. I found this to be a very effect method of coming to an understanding of poetry and the various rules governing its creation.
I tend to be a free-verse poet; I tried to write more structured verse but I found it too constraining. I did not always want my lines and stanzas to rhyme or otherwise conform to some of the more ridged rules of poetry, so I tend to write outside the lines as it were. But "Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry" helped me tighten my free-verse poetry by pointing out the right and wrong way to write this type of poetry. I have learned that I can drift outside the rules as long as I use some of the rules or poetry. Before reading "Perrine's Sound and Sense" I thought the rules of poetry were set in stone, but after reading the book I realize that poets are free to express themselves in a number of ways and still wear the label Poet.
I highly recommend "Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry" not only to aspiring and seasoned poets, but for readers of poetry as well. Gaining a broader understanding of what poetry is, can only heighten ones enjoyment of writing and reading this wonderfully expressive art-form.