“Against the Daily Grind”

Re-Size Text: A A A A Comment

RSS blog print


Michael Palma

“Against the Daily Grind”




Like most people who are seriously involved with poetry, I made my earliest discoveries and formed my first enthusiasms by way of anthologies. Happening on Roy J. Cook’s 101 Famous Poems in my tiny local public library (two rooms on the basement floor of the elementary school), I developed an early taste for patriotic ditties and sentimental ballads—although I fail, no doubt self-servingly, to recall ever enjoying the rhymester of whom Oscar Williams observed that “Edgar Guest/ Is never at his best.” My taste took a large leap forward when I found Louis Untermeyer’s Treasury of Great Poems, English and American. Some have complained that its selections are unimaginative, its textual discussions superficial, its biographical sketches romanticized; there is some truth in all these observations, yet it was just the right book at just the right moment, a doorway into an endlessly unfolding room that I have never found my way out of. Untermeyer is undervalued nowadays, when he is remembered at all, owing in part to the snotty epigram by E. E. Cummings that begins “mr u will not be missed”; Cummings’s charge that Untermeyer used his anthologies for self-promotion is, in fact, much more applicable to the aforementioned Oscar Williams: reviewing one of Williams’s anthologies, Randall Jarrell wrote: “There are nine of his poems—and five of Hardy’s. It takes a lot of courage to like your own poetry almost twice as well as Hardy’s.”
        But my adolescent progress may have differed from the usual pattern in one significant respect: at the same time that I was . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .