Chosen for June 2009 PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE COLLECTION for Non-Fiction.

The author writes: ‘The intention of this book is to examine and analyse the essential nature of the phenomenon we call poetry; to seek an understanding of the power this art form exerts over mind and heart; to comprehend its potency; and to explain its perennial ability to command the respect of mankind’.

Almost a library in one volume, this unusual book, written by an accomplished poet, examines the 4000 years old phenomenon of poetry. Combining history, literature and philosophy, it explains the underlying power of this art form and how its effect is exerted over human hearts and understanding.

Since the Greeks at least, poetry has been accorded pre-eminence in the arts. Poetry’s aesthetic supremacy and inhering mystery has made it the foremost form of expression when human beings need to say something important in a special way. Poetry has been defined as the best words in the best order.

In poetry, the author suggests, the eternal intersects the everyday – it has been said that poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement. He shows how poetry has provided a vehicle for inspiration and fresh ways of thinking and interpreting the perennial questions of the human race. The author makes clear that poetry ‘works’ because it acknowledges the universality of human psychology, and because it unites emotion with reason and tempers imagination with understanding.

Over 200 poets from both East and West are quoted, and the work of 10 master poets is critically analysed and assessed. The major factors involved in translating poetry are discussed, particularly the difficulty of conveying the meaning without losing the spirit. The central features of inspiration and creativity are elucidated.

The unbroken stream of poetry carries resonances of the growth and decay of civilisations, the vicissitudes of wars, the effects of migrations and trading, the influences of religious belief. The author considers, from his own experience, that poetry remains peerless in evaluating and articulating the riches of the human spirit.


Author Details
Kenneth Verity’s English Literature tutor engendered in him a deep attraction to the works of Shakespeare and a sustained interest in the 4000 years old history of poetry. Working as a communications specialist, he travelled widely in the Far East, studying Buddhism with masters from Tibet, Thailand and Korea. He is an initiate of the Mevlevi Order of Whirling Dervishes in Turkey. For many years he directed the Eastern Arts section of Art in Action in Oxfordshire. He also lectures and broadcasts.

He is the author of three books of sonnets, The Spacious Mirror, The Unseen Reflection and Sonnets, and two books of haiku Awareness beyond Mind and Breathing with the Mind. Of his first book of sonnets Kingsley Amis wrote ‘They belong within the corpus of English poetry’.


‘Some guides to a subject could more or less be written by any expert in that field, but a small minority are unique creations of a rare individual who has their own view. Unfortunately most of the latter types of guides fail to be good general guides. Verity’s genius makes him the exception.

This book is arranged in chronological chapters that trace the evolution of poetry as an art form. At the same time, each chapter gives a most practical explanation of how that aspect of poetry that it covers works and why.

The book is immensely readable, hugely informative, and adds to the ability of the reader to enjoy and to create poetry. It is a classic.’
“Epictetus” (Amazon review)

‘The amount of reading which underpins this book is breathtaking. The great merit of Verity’s approach is that he quotes lavishly throughout, not only from the poems themselves, but also from a variety of critics … The chapter on poetry’s figurative element is a model of lucid definition and telling illustration, showing how many layers of meaning may lie behind a single word.’