Friday, September 25, 2009

Poet's Choice (4)

Editors: Paul Engle and Joseph Langland. New York: Time Incorporated. 1962.

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 poem as the favorite. They also write a great deal in a few words about the process of writing poetry. That alone is reason for the interested reader to become involved.

Sample Quotes and Ideas:

Vernon Watkins: “The very last words of the poem came to me many years before the poem was made….” p. 90.

Paul Engle: “The stanzas make their own attempt to triumph over artificiality of rime, meter and formal rhythm by making strong and spontaneous emotion not only survive these hazards, but in a sense depend on them.” p. 93.

Josephine Miles: “ ‘Reason’ is a favorite one of my poems because I like the idea of speech—not images, not ideas, not music, but people talking—as the material from which poetry is made…. I like the spare and active interplay of talk.” p. 106.

William Meredith: “I wouldn’t scan a poem while I was doing its important work—the first couple of drafts….” p. 175.

Kingsley Amis: “…it had been kicking around in draft form for months before I felt I had it right. I wrote it so many times I despaired of it.” p. 198.

Howard Moss: “ ‘Going to Sleep in the Country’ arrived without struggle, apparently without forethought, as if it had been waiting in the wings.” p. 206.

Howard Moss: “I was surprised, on reading the poem over, to notice that each stanza was one line shorter than the one before. I had not consciously planned it that way, but it added to the effect of going to sleep, the waking world growing not only more distant as the poem went on, but the sleeper’s relationship to it becoming briefer each time.” p. 206.

John Wain: “After a poem has arrived, and been born, I look at it much as one looks at a natural object: I didn’t write it—it happened to me.” p. 232.

Elizabeth Jennings: “It is perhaps ironic, as well as of some literary interest, that when I did at last find the medium, the music, the image, for my idea, I was not directly searching for it.” p. 236.

John Hollander: “ ‘Aristotle to Phyllis’ is a poem that I’m sure no one could really like as I do. It’s too full of private jokes for myself alone.” p. 283.

To be continued.

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