Monday, July 05, 2010

`Let's Do an Anthology'

Every dedicated reader carries in his or her head an anthology, a private accumulation of favorite poems and lines from poems, even phrases and single words, for amusement, sustenance and consolation. It’s cheering to recall that “anthology” is from the Greek for “flower collection,” so one's anthology ought to give at least as much pleasure as a summer bouquet. A friend in New York/Texas on Saturday sent an e-mail with the subject line “Let’s do an anthology”:

“Patrick, take the poems you love that aren't in your favorite anthologies, add my favorites of the same fate, throw in a few favorites from books we have and love, and let's publish an anthology. We could put some Z. Herbert in there, a prose poem or two of Baudelaire, Hecht, a little Horace, V. Hugo, Pushkin, Rimbaud, Stevens and Wilbur.”

The operative word is “love,” without schoolmarmish duty or canon-bound war-horse obligations (though war horses are not forbidden). In other words, only the good stuff, no filler, the poems your sensibility has already collected. There’s no need to dig. I think immediately of Vaughan’s “The World,” Louise Bogan’s “Simple Autumnal,” Allen Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead,” Hecht’s “Green: An Epistle” and Edgar Bowers’ “For Louis Pasteur.” It’s tough to stop once you start shuffling the mental Rolodex. Here’s what my friend proposed off the top of his head, calling them “uncollected favorites”:

Akhmatova's Requiem
Aiken's When You Are Not Surprised
Arnold's Dover Beach
Auden's Musee des Beaux Arts
Berryman's Dream Song 4
Brodsky's May 24, 1980
Celan's Deathfugue
Cunningham's Ars Amoris, Choice, and The Metaphysical Amorist (you add more)
Dennis's The God Who Loves You and A Maxim
Donne's (some of his secular stuff)
Garcia Lorca's Faithless Wife
Heaney's Digging
Herrick's Delight in Disorder
Hill's (several -- you choose)
Justice's Bus Stop and Men at Forty
Montale's The Lemon Trees
Pound's In a Station of the Metro and The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter (and perhaps a few others)
Simic's Against Whatever It is That's Encroaching and Cloud's Gathering
Tennyson's Ulysses
Vallejo's Black Stone on a White Stone
Warren's After the Dinner Party
Williams's Queen-Anne's Lace (and doesn't he have another, more erotic?)
Wyatt's They Flee From Me.

Not my list but a worthy one, with much overlap. My friend is fluent in French and I defer to his knowledge and taste but would suggest titles by Valéry and Ponge. He concludes his e-mail: “Go for it, Patrick,” and we invite you to do the same, “Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!”

1 comment:

Left-Footer said...

May I suggest:
Chesterton's Lepanto
Villon's Prayer for My Mother
Belloc's To Our Lady of Częstochowa
Tennyson's In Memoriam stanzas beginning "Strong Son of God"
Hopkins's The Wreck of the Deutschland
Catullus's Multas per Gentes..
E. Farjeon's Mothet Malone