Editors: Paul Engle and Joseph Langland.
Why read it? First the poem. Then the poet’s comment on why it is the favorite poem. The explanation is often as cryptic as the poem. The poets offer comments on the nature of poetry, how the poems originated and the many different reasons that they have chosen that particular poems as the favorite. They also write a great deal in a few words about the process of writing poetry. That alone is reason enough for the interested reader to become involved.
Sample Quotes and Ideas:
“Few people work harder, or for smaller rewards, than poets, especially American poets. In a country where only half the adults read even one book of any kind a year, the poet is virtually ignored.” p. xvii.
“A good poem is usually an act of discovery…clothed in memorable form and language.” p. xvii.
Alan Tate: “Even the most serious poems are partly a game, not unlike a child’s game, the rules of which are arbitrarily made in advance.” p. 39.
John Ciardi: “I like both poems that sing and poems that say.” p. 151.
Louis Simpson: “Poetry is the art of the ephemeral.” p. 220.
Michael Hamburger: “I was brought up on the notion of the impersonality of art, and had taken the ‘objective correlative’ too much to heart. This meant that I wrote too formally, distilled experience till it seemed not mine but anyone’s—or no one’s, and became what people call a ‘literary’ poet.” p. 225.
Louis Simpson: “…a poet can be great and yet be mistaken in his ideas.” Uses Whitman as an example. His ideas about American democracy were mistaken, but he is great in writing what he observes. p. 220.
Roy Fuller: The poet oscillates between the extremes of giving up poetry for action or giving up action to write poetry. p. 116.
“I cannot say, and no one has ever been able to say, ‘Today I will write poetry.’ ” p. xvii.
John Hall Wheelock: “I have often tried to define what gives this poem so strong a hold upon me. Is it because it seemed almost to write itself and I’m still not sure of its meaning? In my case, I sense that it says a good deal in a few words….” p. 9.
To be continued.