With its compact but inclusive survey of more than four centuries of poetry, Blank Verse is filled with practical advice for poets of our own day who may wish to attempt the form or enhance their mastery of it. Enriched with numerous examples, Shaw’s discussions of verse technique are lively and accessible, inviting to all.
Robert B. Shaw is a professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. He writes frequently on modern and contemporary poetry. His own books of poems include Below the Surface and Solving for X (winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize).
“This conversational, engaging study offers a much-needed
reconsideration of blank verse and the poets who explore its
“Robert B. Shaw’s Blank Verse: A Guide to Its History and Use is a popular study in the best sense of the word. It is written entirely without scholarly jargon. Its explanations are clear and direct, its examples abundant and well chosen. Its author knows his subject intimately well.”
“At the conclusion of Blank Verse, one feels admiring gratitude to Robert B. Shaw, who has guided us with such imaginative care for a particular verse medium and also for the larger enterprise of poetry.”
“Shaw‘s eminently readable volume is a fine guide to how blank verse has been written, and especially for how it may be taken up by aspirant poets. Its efforts to serve as comprehensive survey and instructive commentary at once could hardly be more successful.”
“I am enthusiastic about Blank Verse. It’s based on a wide, sensitive reading of the tradition, and it deftly negotiates the demands of technical precision and clear exposition.”
*coauthor of A History of the English Language (5th Edition)*
“Robert B. Shaw’s Blank Verse is a remarkable history-in-little of the crucial question of poetry written in English that takes the form of blank verse or unrhymed iambic pentameter. William Shakespeare, John Milton, and William Wordsworth are necessarily the greatest poets analyzed by Shaw, but he gives particular emphasis to the twentieth century and to ongoing literary history. The book’s achievement is considerable: it offers accurate instruction in prosody and a vast store of curious and useful information about particular poets and their poems.”
“Shaw’s research and instruction bring new music to this most familiar rhythm, updating our understanding and enlivening the conversation.”