Thursday, July 31, 2008

Poetry Anthologies: Man oh Man ...

In response to a comment left earlier today ... a great one, at that:

... if i may digress, i’d like to mention a delightful anthology of international poetry assembled by the polish/lithuanian poet Czeslaw Milosz. it is a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection and i was drawn to it because it contained so many poets i’ve never heard of: Jaan Kaplinski, Li-Young Lee, Oscar Milosz (a distant relative), 'Yoruba Tribe' ... any suggestions of other anthologies?

This post reminded me of all the creative, funny advertisements that I find myself thinking about days later ... without being able to remember what the heck the advertisement was shilling! (That talking baby with the clown still amuses me, but I always have to look up the video to remember the product.)

But this must be the book the anonymous poster was referring to. Yes, Anon? Thanks for the recommendation; I'll have to check it out soon.

I love poetry anthologies. They're like eating tapas: Grab the proscuitto-wrapped melon, seize the beet chip with goat cheese, skip the fried sardine balls. (Unless you like sardine balls, in which case, well, good luck with that and please don't breathe on me.) I've discovered so many poets through good anthologies -- John Engman being one of those -- and just love the sense of meandering exploration they provide.

A couple recent faves, several of which are in the giant book pile beside my bed:

The Oxford Book of American Poetry (David Lehman, editor) - complete with controversial inclusions such Bob Dylan. (No Jewel yet. Maybe next edition.)

The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales (Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson, editors) - Started reading this one while working on a series of poems reworking the Red Riding Hood story. It's full of gems.

Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (Neil Astley, editor)

Finally, I bought this one a few months back and really dig a lot of the poems in it. About the male experience, yes, but some poems by female writers too.

But it's such a terrible title, one that immediately made me snort. There is something about the word "Man" -- that flat "ah" sound, the connotation of pulsing testosterone? -- that makes it hilarious when you put it in front of another noun.

(Try it: Man-teeth. Man-pants. Man-cake.)

It just does not communicate the soulfulness and gravitas that this collection has in spades.

Other great anthologies? Weigh in!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

yes, madame mc, sorry, forgot to mention name of book: a book of luminous things. perhaps a ponderous title, but i think it delivers. even the haiku are good.
... speaking of luminous things, what happened to your new york poem with the stiletto?
... non sequitur. not only was shakespeare the greatest poet ever but he was also the worst (when he wanted to be as in 'midsummer':
'O, grim-looked night! Oh, night with hue so black!
O night, which ever art when day is not!
O night! O night! Alack, alack, alack!
you'll never catch milton stooping to such divine depths!

Anonymous said...

Why is your blog titled Ecstatic Doggerel?

M. C. Allan said...

stiletto draft axed in order that I might submit it -- one day, once I've worked out the kinks -- and not have journal editors treat it as previously published :)

M. C. Allan said...

The trouble with Anons: now there are two! Do I address them both as One Big Anonymous Poster, or as two?

ecstatic doggerel:

first word = what I'd hope to achieve: verbal, spiritual, moral, creative, maybe even occasionally physical, ecstasy through writing

second word = what is far too often the real result of grasping after such heights

also, if you will pardon the pedestrian turn, I like dogs. I imagine that dogs -- who are highly attuned to the sensual present, be that a dead squirrel or a creaking door -- would write excellent poetry if they had opposable thumbs.

Anonymous said...

please treat them as two. anonymous 2 is anonymous' number 1 daughter.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Three of my favorites: Writing in a Nuclear Age (New England Review & Bread Loaf Quarterly, 1983), Jim Schley, ed. Also, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness (Norton, 1993), Carolyn Forche, ed. And The Body Electirc: America's Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review (Norton, 2000) Eds. Berg, Gonanno & Vogelsang.

M. C. Allan said...

great list, sam -- thanks! I have the forche collection and it's really excellent. will have to scuttle out and check out the others.

Angela said...

Ah, I see that my favorite, "Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness" has already been offered up! Man, I wish I still had that book. Some college books are worth keeping but you don't realize which ones until they're gone.

M. C. Allan said...

Angela: I have the Forche book -- any time you want to borrow it, let me know. I'll walk over and bring a bottle of wine; nothing like drinking a nice Cab while reading utterances of extreme suffering and degradation.