Friday, November 17, 2017

Best-Loved Poems by John Boyes

I'm always intrigued by any poetry compilation called "Best-loved." Best-loved by whom? Boyes writes that he made an effort in his book to choose poems which are best-known rather than his personal favorites. But I would beg to differ since I was unfamiliar with more than HALF of these poems.

Nevertheless, he has done an exceptional job of gathering together exceptionally beautiful poetry. I didn't enjoy all the selections equally, but there is a general elegance of language in his choices that makes the book a delight. (Walt Whitman's poems were a constant exception to this.)

Boyes separates the poems by category (Nature, Death, Love, Travel, Humor, etc.) My least favorite category was "Irreverence and Satire" precisely because its biting tone took away from potential loveliness. I was befuddled by the inclusion of George Herbert's The Pulley in this section since it is ironic, rather than satirical. I was pleasantly surprised by his section of poems about faith since they are often excluded from modern anthologies. Another treat was his inclusion of "Twas the Night before Christmas," which may not be great literature, but it certainly falls under the heading of "well-loved."

There is very little fluff here. Amidst classic sonnets by Shakespeare and family favorites like "From a Railway Carriage," you'll find many new poets to enjoy. At 600 pages, this is a book to read slowly, savoring a few poems a day.


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