Paperback review: Who is Ozymandias? And Other Puzzles in Poetry, By John Fuller


"A poem should not mean, but be," in Archibald MacLeish's famous words.

John Fuller is having none of that. He goes after meanings like a pig after truffles. Here you can learn what Larkin's high windows mean (an acknowledgement of the religious point of view); why so many people get the title of T S Eliot's masterpiece wrong (it's The Waste Land – two words, not one, an error more significant than might first appear); whether it's possible to dream a good poem (not really); what Lewis Carroll's Snark was (it's kind of Freudian); and who Ozymandias is (he was Rameses II, but Shelley may have had a more contemporary emperor in mind). A witty, erudite and illuminating book, which encourages one to enjoy the puzzles and pleasures of poetry without fear.