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 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:
John Holmes: “However much I vary tone, line length, and shape of a poem, I want to get one I can read aloud in my own most natural speaking voice, but emotionally heightened.” p. 61.
John Betjeman: “…as the verses, like all my verse are meant to be recited out loud.” p. 81.
Paul Engle: “…the urgent emotion demanded that language be put under control.” p. 94.
Kingsley Amis: “…something I had been trying to get said for a long time….” p. 197.
John Wain: “If it has spoken to someone else, it has proved itself.” p. 232.
William Meredith: “The second reason I like the poem is that it was what Robert Frost has somewhere called a gatherer. It pulled together a lot of apparently unrelated experience….” p. 175.
Philip Larkin: “Incidentally, an oceanographer wrote to me pointing out that I was confusing two kinds wave, plunging waves and spilling waves, which seriously damaged the poem from a technical view-point. I am sorry about this, but do not see how to amend it now.” p. 204.
Howard Moss: “ ‘Going to Sleep in the Country’ was for me a kind of reward, as if the struggle and labor of other poems had paid off in this almost effortless one, as if a great deal of conscious training had finally been put to use without my having to do much more than transcribe what the past had stored up.” p. 206.
John Wain: “…my poems stand in a quite different relationship to me, their author, from that of my other writings. If I write a novel or a story or a critical essay, I soon make up my mind as to its merits; I can read it, more or less, as if it had been written by someone else. But I cannot do this with my poems because they are instinctual: they arise, from some deep place in my being where forces are at work which I cannot command.” p. 231.
James Merrill: “The poem still surprises me…by its clarification of what I was feeling.” p. 239.
To be continued.