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Unread 10-04-2012, 01:45 PM
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John Whitworth John Whitworth is offline
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Default 4. Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings

Larkin's 'The Whitsun Weddings'. That's the definitive book of English poetry that put an end to modernism, and none too soon. Of course NOW we can see that Auden wasn't a modernist either, but we couldn't then. Larkin's poetry, along with Betjeman's was the first poetry I found by myself rather than through a course of literature. Of course you knew right away this was the real stuff. You just didn't know why.
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Unread 10-04-2012, 03:04 PM
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Tony Barnstone Tony Barnstone is offline
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Hi Folks,

I entirely agree about the selecteds and collecteds, but I think I've given enough rules and don't want to be to constrictive. There are poets such as Weldon Kees who are only available today in a collected poems, and, given his early death, the volume is slim enough and good enough to stand up as a book of poems.

On the other hand, you are right on, Max, that I was hoping that this thread would help to identify some books that really stand up as books. I like the idea of the book itself as a genre, well and inventively constructed. On the other hand, some of my favorite individual books, and there are many, are faves simply because such a high percentage of the poems (i.e., Yeats--thanks, Andrew) are simply brilliant.

Oh, and John, not to nudge, but can I ask you to edit your post to give it this title: 4. Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings
That'll identify it as one of the "100."

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Unread 10-04-2012, 04:55 PM
David Anthony David Anthony is offline
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Dunno how you can distinguish between the poets and their books.
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Unread 10-04-2012, 09:47 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Default 5. Anne Sexton, Transformations

Transformations puts the grim back in Grimm. Sexton taps into the psychological roots of fairy tales in a way that is both personal and archetypal. For years after I first read this collection it remained vivid in my mind (even before I reread it). It opened up to me the power of reimagining and reinterpreting the classic stories from a contemporary and feminist perspective. I was impressed with the knowing, cynical, and yet emotionally invested voice of the author, and her way with metaphor was startling.

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Unread 10-04-2012, 10:07 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Great thread. Already I've learned of three books I'm eager to read. (The Larkin and Yeats I already love.)

Originally Posted by David Anthony View Post
Dunno how you can distinguish between the poets and their books.
The poets tend to be taller.

Originally Posted by Nigel Mace View Post
Interesting to claim that only writers of light verse compose their works as books. ... I'm not so sure that the contention is true.
Neither am I, which is why I said it. I'm hoping to learn of examples to prove me wrong. Tony and Susan have already come up with two. (I'm interested to hear what Frost said about poetry books and I'm looking forward to an argument that any of his books works as a "poem.")
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Unread 10-04-2012, 11:22 PM
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W.F. Lantry W.F. Lantry is offline
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Default 6. John Berryman. The DreamSongs.


So the first book I thought of was The Branch Will Not Break. I was surprised, and heartened, it was also the first book mentioned. So then I thought 'What's the most important prosodic attribute of 20th century poetry?' Pretty clearly, it's the varied lyrical sequence, and Roethke's The Far Field and Kinnell's The Book of Nightmares would both make excellent candidates. And then I thought 'Who has been most important to my own life and work?' That's easy: Forche's The Country Between Us.

But then I thought 'This question is being asked on a site devoted to form,' and I almost settled on Omeros. But then, who wrote the most innovative formal poems? Who had the most spectacular use of meter and rhyme during that time? Clearly, it's Berryman. In fact, it's not even close.

So that's my nomination, purely on technical reasons: for his stunning pentameter, his inventive use of structure, and his ingenious use of rhyme, I think Berryman has to make the list.


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Unread 10-05-2012, 03:06 AM
Gregory Dowling Gregory Dowling is offline
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Default 7. Robert Frost: New Hampshire

As I said in my earlier post, for me it would be a toss-up between North of Boston and New Hampshire. While the earlier book is probably the more important from the point of view of literary history - it showed there was another way to be Modernist, or at least another way to "make it new" - in the end I think I prefer New Hampshire. North of Boston contains some of Frost's greatest narratives and dialogue/monologue poems but doesn't show Frost's equally strong gift for the lyric. That, of course, increased its impact at a time but does mean that there is the risk of monotony. New Hampshire has some great longish narratives ("Maple", "Wild Grapes", "Two Witches", which are not as famous as the earlier ones but do have a wonderful quality of weirdness), some shorter but extremely powerful narratives ("Two Look at Two", "Census Taker", for example), but the volume also contains some of his greatest short lyrics: "Dust of Snow", "Fire and Ice", "Nothing Gold Can Stay". And then there are poems that are halfway between lyric and nursery rhyme ("Gathering Leaves") poems between comedy and lyrical beauty ("Hillside Thaw") and, of course, his most famous poem ever, "Stopping by Woods". There is not a dud poem in the whole book, with the possible exception of the rather plodding title poem (which still has its quotable moments), and the range of tones, forms, registers and styles is stunning.
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Unread 10-05-2012, 04:17 AM
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Tony Barnstone Tony Barnstone is offline
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Ah! I found the Lister for ten bucks, yay! The others I have already. Enjoying the thread and all the discussion.

Best, TB
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Unread 10-05-2012, 07:08 AM
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Don Jones Don Jones is offline
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Default No. 8. Wallace Stevens: Harmonium

First off, his inaugural volume is a collection of great poems in its own right. There are so many great poems in one collection and of a very wide variety. We have “Invective Against Swans,” “Domination of Black,” “The Snow Man,” "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle," “The Comedian as the Letter C,” “Anecdote of a Jar,” “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” “Peter Quince at the Clavier,” “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and “Sunday Morning.” There are more others can name, including the additions to the 1931 edition. The last listed masterpiece “Sunday Morning” is a beautiful denial of the Resurrection and of religious faith. For Stevens, religion is a point of departure, not a touchstone. But with things so narrowed down, there is no easy way out for Stevens’ relentless skepticism. One may fault his near apotheosis of the human imagination but his poetry demonstrates what can be done with that imaginative faculty with which Stevens’ mind was fully equipped. His style can assume any absurdity and make it work. Harmonium reveals a keen sense of humor I have yet to find in other writers. He is one of our funniest poets. In terms of formalism he could do anything, and did, with stunning virtuosity.

Here is one source for the volume.


Last edited by Don Jones; 10-05-2012 at 01:24 PM.
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Unread 10-05-2012, 07:35 AM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Default No. 9 Geography III by Elizabeth Bishop

Geography III by Elizabeth Bishop is an obvious choice for reasons that have been better stated elsewhere. It combines the themes that occupied her from the beginning into a collection of poems that move in and out of a series of forms. It ranges from the famous "One Art" villanelle to the free form prose of "Crusoe in England." "The Moose" is a brilliant example of her flexibility with form and rhyme. This flexibility is what allows her to heighten emotion by stretching her quiet restraint to a near breaking point without collapsing into emotionalism. That is her last book and although she doesn't rank as highly as Yeats she does share with him the rare ability to continue to mature and grow as a poet until the end of her life.
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