Today, there are two books I want to write about — The Norton Anthology of Poetry and The World’s Contracted Thus.
The Norton Anthology of Poetry. If you look it up on the Boomerang Books database, you’ll see that it’s up to its fifth edition, published in 2005. I own a copy of the third edition, published in 1983. It’s a second-hand copy I purchased for Lit at Uni, back in the late 1980s.
The Norton Anthology of Poetry. It’s a BIG book! The third edition runs to 1452 pages, and is chock full of … yep, you guessed it… poetry. 🙂 Starting with anonymous verses from the 13th Century, it finishes with the mid-20th Century poetry of Leslie Marmon Silko.
But before Norton’s, I owned The World’s Contracted Thus — a shorter anthology of poetry with a mere 386 pages. The second edition was published in 1983 and covers roughly the same time-period as Norton’s, but in less depth. My parents bought it for me in 1984 for high school Literature.
I have never read either of these books from cover to cover, and I doubt I ever will. Back in high school, I wouldn’t be caught dead even glancing at any poems other than those that were required reading. When at Uni, I would occasionally seek out a few more by any poet we were studying in depth. Since Uni, these two anthologies have become the sort of book that I’ll occasionally take down from the shelf to do one of three things with…
1. Randomly select a page and read whatever poem happens to be there. This can be rather interesting.
2. Select a poem I know I like, but have not read in ages, and re-read it. And there are LOTS of really good poems within these books. Let me quote a few of my favourites.
“To his Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
But at my back I always hear
Times winged Charriot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lye
Desarts of vast Eternity.
Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Looks upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
“Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
The Latin translates as “Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country.”
“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
There are so may more — from “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (1812-1889), to “An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow” by Les Murry (b.1938). I could go on and on. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll move on to point three…
3. Research. Yes, I have occasionally needed to quote a poem in something that I am writing. The first time I did this was with my very first book, a YA short story collection called Life, Death and Detention. The final story in that book, “The Writing’s On The Wall”, is about a person engaging in some creative graffiti, which includes poetry. And so I got to include my all time favourite lines of verse, from William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”…
To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.
More recently, I got to quote these exact same lines in a novelette called The Bookworm Mystery, in which a couple of kids follow clues left in library books as they search for treasure.
I’m sure I’ll continue to quote poetry in the future. Keep reading Literary Clutter and you’ll probably see me doing it here again, some time.
Catch ya later, George
PS. Follow me on Twitter… where I rarely quote poetry.
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