The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost

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9780060540418: The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost

The great critic presents his personal selection, with commentary, of the finest poems in the English language.

This comprehensive anthology attempts to give the common reader possession of six centuries of great British and American poetry. The book features a large introductory essay by Harold Bloom called "The Art of Reading Poetry," which presents his critical reflections of more than half a century devoted to the reading, teaching, and writing about the literary achievement he loves most. In the case of all major poets in the language, this volume offers either the entire range of what is most valuable in their work, or vital selections that illuminate each figure's contribution. There are also headnotes by Harold Bloom to every poet in the volume as well as to the most important individual poems. Much more than any other anthology ever gathered, this book provides readers who desire the pleasures of a sublime art with very nearly everything they need in a single volume. It also is regarded by its editor as his final meditation upon all those who have formed his mind.

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About the Author:

Harold Bloom is a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard. His more than thirty books include The Best Poems of the English Language, The Art of Reading Poetry, and The Book of J. He is a MacArthur Prize Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including the Academy’s Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, the International Prize of Catalonia, and the Alfonso Reyes Prize of Mexico.

From Publishers Weekly:

Bloom made his critical reputation with a book called The Anxiety of Influence, where he argued that poetry proceeds on the misreadings by strong poets of their predecessors. In this massive anthology, Bloom's strongly held, and deeply felt, preferences for the most productive misreadings in the language come to the fore brilliantly. Bloom has developed his tastes over a lifetime and specifically casts this book as their summation—"the anthology I've always wanted to possess." An introduction entitled "The Art of Reading Poetry" tries to help nonexpert readers hear what Bloom hears, explaining that "poetic power... so fuses thinking and remembering that we cannot separate the two processes" and naming poetry "the true mode for expanding our consciousness." While the selections that follow are significant, many are predictable; it is the headnotes that make the book indispensable. The heart of the book, of course, is its choice of poems, most rightly well-known, some (from Jones Very to Conrad Aiken) famous in their time, but now obscure: despite his title, Bloom ends not with Frost but with Hart Crane, whose visionary rhapsodies encapsulate, for him, modern poetry's powers. Popular favorites (Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling) also make the cut, as does the 17th-century "Tom O'Bedlam's Song," which Bloom calls "the most magnificent Anonymous poem in the language." The book is filled with hundreds of taste-making turns and asides; it's hard, no matter where one's affiliations lie, not to love Bloom's offhand demolition of T.S. Eliot's essay on Andrew Marvell. Whether one chooses to adopt Bloom's stances or fortify against them, this is sure to be a formative book for experienced readers and neophytes alike.
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