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The Oldest Language Art Examined
Poetry is the oldest of the language arts. It predated literacy. Its cadence, rhythm, and rhyme allowed complex things to be remembered. When literacy emerged, the earliest literature recorded was poetry. Today prose has displaced poetry from primacy, yet poems remain important.
“A Little History of Poetry,” by John Carey is exactly what its title promises – a short history of poetry, written for a general audience.
Carey starts at the beginning. He opens the book with a discussion of the oldest recorded poem, “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Written over 4,000 years ago it was preserved on clay tablets. He ends it with poets of the 21st century, many as unknown to today’s general public as Gilgamesh. Along the way and in between he makes a brief stop examining virtually every type of poetry and their poets.