Know any good poems?
October 31, 2007 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Interested in English language poetry (classical or modern, romantic or political), what can you recommend?

Is there anything out there, any anthologies or collections that you all can suggest? My exposure to English language poetry has been very slight... I majored in French (15 years ago), so I'm pretty up to speed on Apollinaire, Verlaine, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, etc... but I'm completely clueless when it comes to Shelley, Byron, Wilde, Keats, Yeats. etc. Is there a way in for a once voracious reader, whose appetites have become more, uh, quotidian?
posted by psmealey to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Norton Anthology of English Lit is a classroom classic. The selections aren't necessarily deep, but they are broad.
posted by Bromius at 2:43 PM on October 31, 2007

And the Norton Anthology of Poetry, ditto. Both are well worth getting.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:49 PM on October 31, 2007

The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry is decent.

But for my money: John Berryman's The Dream Songs encompasses the uniquely American genius of language more than any other book you can find. See here.
posted by creasy boy at 2:51 PM on October 31, 2007

Damn, you beat me to Berryman, creasy boy.

Seconding the anthologies, too.

Also, if you want to go a little more contemporary, I really enjoy John Ashbury, Ted Berrigan and James Wright.
posted by slogger at 3:12 PM on October 31, 2007

The Rattle Bag, an anthology edited by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, may be a good place to start. It's eclectic but geared towards novice readers (in a good way). Out of print but cheap copies abound on any of the used book sites.

Speaking of Heaney, the Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry is incredibly rich. Considering its size and its reputation for provinciality Ireland has produced a goodly number of fine poets.

And while we're in Ireland, William Butler Yeats: Selected Poems And Four Plays is a necessity.
posted by otio at 3:13 PM on October 31, 2007

A couple of of my bookmarks might have something to tickle your fancy:
poetry magazines.
A perhaps not quite so well known English poet who can be difficult but is rewarding, in my view: Geoffery Hill. I loved the late RS Thomas. Les Murray is good too, for my money.
posted by Abiezer at 3:14 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Voice That is Great Within Us: American Poetry of the 20th Century. (Although it's mostly confined to the first half of the 20th century.)
posted by frobozz at 4:04 PM on October 31, 2007

I second The Rattle Bag, and also liked The School Bag, edited by Hughes and Heaney as well.

Apart from those, I read Philip Larkin's anthology The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse recently; which has quite a lot not very well known poets, and more surprises than any collection I ever read.
posted by ijsbrand at 4:06 PM on October 31, 2007

You could browse the Academy of American Poets website and then look up the books of the writers there who catch your fancy, as sondrialiac so wisely recommends above. Some that I like: The University of Toronto Library Canadian Poetry list is a similar resource for Canada. I like: These are by no means complete but they'll give you a jumping-off point.
posted by joannemerriam at 4:19 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]

I second the Best American Poetry annual anthology.

The Anthology of 20th Century British and Irish Poetry is also a fantastic read.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:12 PM on October 31, 2007

Don't forget the old standards: Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
posted by RussHy at 6:27 PM on October 31, 2007

Also don't forget my holy trinity - Herrick, Herbert and Donne, with a special guest appearance by Milton. Curl up with Paradise Lost on a rainy Sunday, let yourself get lost in the atmosphere and hours will pass without your being aware of it.
posted by conifer at 7:56 PM on October 31, 2007

The Favorite Poem Project has released an anthology in three parts and a DVD with some of the participants reading their own favorite and discussing it.

University of Toronto's Representative Poetry Online is a fine resource I use often.

The Wondering Minstrels used to be a great poem-a-day mailing list (with discussion). This is the archive. Many favorites of mine are in there.

Curiously, the poets whose handling of English most inspires me are overwhelmingly Welshmen: Gerard Manley Hopkins for his abundant wonder and gifts of locution, Wilfred Owen for applying poetry to the most vital issue of his life, the rather impenetrable Dylan Thomas for repetition with change, and more recently Leslie Norris for powerful sound work cloaked in easy conversational rhythms.

For some non-Welsh and non-men, try William Shakespeare (sonnets especially), John Donne, Emily Dickinson (amazing work set carefully within hymn meter), Rita Dove, Sherman Alexie, Li-Young Lee, Naomi Shihab Nye, Anna Akhmatova.

Forms I'm especially fond of include ghazal and haiku. Neither is natively English, of course, and each has been adapted to English in several ways.
posted by eritain at 7:58 PM on October 31, 2007

poems for the millenium. [1] [2]

As for particular poets, I like Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, & George Oppen a whole lot.
posted by juv3nal at 12:14 AM on November 1, 2007

Seconding Larkin's The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, a fantastic book.
posted by fire&wings at 6:48 AM on November 1, 2007

My go-tos are The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry and The Norton Anthology of Poetry.
posted by lampoil at 7:10 AM on November 1, 2007

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