A short review of Christopher Ricks’ The Force of Poetry :
After William Empson, Christopher Ricks is probably the best respected critic of the last half-century or so. Dealing with anyone and anything fron Milton to Wordsworth to Lies and the evolution of the Cliche, Ricks’ sampling is broad, but his focus is acute. He is so deft at reading poems by listening to the words, attending to what the words themselves are doing and saying–to the point that a hyphen or conjunction can generate a powerful new reading of an entire poem. His account of the words becomes his description of the poem and he gives that to us not as an imposition so much as a gift–an aesthetic vision we can share with him.
A note on availability in print: As you can tell from the listing I’ve linked to above, this book is in desperate need of an economic reprinting. Get this book, but get it used.