The authority of poetry varies from one period to another, from one culture to another. For the author of this book, the authority of lyric poetry has three sources: religious affirmation, the social institutions of those who speak the idioms from which particular poems are made, and the extraordinary cognition generated by the formal and musical resources of poems. This book helps students, poets, and general readers to recognize the pleasures and understand the ambitions of lyric poetry. To explain why a reader might prefer one kind of poem to another, the author analyzes—beyond the political and intellectual significance of poems—the musicality of both lyric poetry and popular song, including that of Tin Pan Alley and doo-wop. He shows that poets have distinctive intellectual resources—not just rhetorical resources—for examining their subjects, and that the power of poetic language to generalize, not particularize, is what justly deserves a critic's attention.