I am proud and delighted to report that I just finished reading the Oxford Book of English Verse cover to cover.
I have discovered or been reminded of a number of poets I want to learn and read more of (Edward Taylor, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and Edward Thomas, none of whom I’d known before this, for more obscure examples).
I liked the nineteenth century best, easily (Wordsworth! Coleridge! Shelley! Keats! Christina Rossetti! Yeats!). Before then, I enjoyed Langland, Spenser, Herbert, Vaughan, Traherne, and some of work of good old Anonymous quite a lot, though, as I mentioned last week, I got very sick of the love poetry. After the nineteenth century…there was a lot of war poetry, which was too grim and brutal for me, but I think I like Auden and Eliot and Dylan Thomas and Charles Tomlinson. The Ted Hughes included consisted of brutal, scary poems about brutal, scary predators (well, there was one about how he couldn’t feel sorry for a dead pig, but then the humans are the brutal, scary predators). Is this representative of his poetry? Maybe I’ll find out.
At any rate, I now have about a million leads I could follow reading. I have to decide what I’ll read and write next.
My top options for reading right now are:
- C.S. Lewis’s Literature in the Sixteenth Century–I haven’t managed to get through either this or Allegory of Love before, despite trying a few times, but now that I know more of the names he refers to, it may be easier.
- Greer Gilman—an author of fantasy that is almost poetry that is based in Shakespeare and ballads and Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’ve tried and failed to get through her two dense, difficult, and brilliant Cloud books as well, much to my chagrin—because Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales captures smells in the back of my head with more accuracy than probably anything else I’ve read.
- Stephanie Burt’s The Poem Is You, which I have as a Kindle book. The Oxford Book of English Verse leaves off at Seamus Heaney, and I’d really like to get the same kind of eagle’s eye view of contemporary poetry.