July 1, 2009

Poetry Book Review: Chief Modern Poets of England and America

BOOK #: 52
CHALLENGES: 9 Categories in 2009 Challenge
RATING: 3.5 Stars

I have forgotten where I picked up Chief Modern Poets of England and America (4th Edition) but it must have been from my grandparents. It was published by The Macmillan Company in 1962, so "modern poets" is put into perspective for you. I have a fondness for the poets of this generation which is why I wanted to read it.

The book is roughly 1,000 pages long (which is why I picked it for the Long category of the challenge!) I say roughly 1,000 because the book is divided into two sections- Modern British Poets and Modern American Poets. The page numbers start over in the second section.

In addition to discovering some new favorite poems, I discovered that some of the poems I knew and loved before I opened the book were still some of my favorite ones in the book by the time I had finished.

A few of the poems I knew and loved already were:

When You Are Old by W.B. Yeats
In Time by Kathleen Raine
The Moment by Kathleen Raine

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens
The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

The poems that were new to me and that I fell in love with were:

Disabled by Wilfred Owen
Desire is a Witch by C. Day Lewis
Our Bias by W.H. Auden

I Got So I Could Hear His Name...by Emily Dickinson
The Hangman at Home by Carl Sandburg
My Father Moved Through Dooms of Love by E.E. Cummings

I also discovered some poets who I just really did not care for at all- Siegfried Sassoon, Marianne Moore, Archibald MacLeish, Richard Eberhart, and Kenneth Fearing. But to each his own. I am sure there are plenty of people who like their poems. I just did not happen to be one of them.

I really liked discovering more British poetry. I did not really consider how little of it I had ever read. Out of 24 poets I knew of 6. Compare that to the 26 American poets, of which I knew 12.

I want to share 2 of my favorite poems from the book with you. One that was an old favorite and one that is a new favorite.

When You Are Old by W. B. Yeats (1893)
When you are old and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And I loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The Hangman at Home by Carl Sandburg (1920)
What does the hangman think about
When he goes home at night from work?
When he sits down with his wife and
Children for a cup of coffee and a
Plate of ham and eggs, do they ask
Him if it was a good day's work
And everything went well, or do they
Stay off some topics and talk about
The weather, baseball, politics
And the comic strips in the papers
And the movies? Do they look at his
Hands when he reaches for the coffee
Or the ham and eggs? If the little
Ones say, Daddy, play horse, here's
A rope---does he answer like a joke:
I seen enough rope for today?
Or does his face light up like a
Bonfire of joy and does he say:
It's a good and dandy world we live
In. And if a white face moon looks
In through a window where a baby girl
Sleeps and the moon gleams mix with
Baby ears and baby hair---the hangman---
How does he act then? It must be easy
For him. Anything is easy for a hangman,
I guess.

Oddly enough, I found this book for sale on eBay.


  1. I love Wilfred Owen and e.e. cummings. And that Yeats poem is a great one as well. I really ought to read more poetry...I enjoy it, but I rarely seek it out.

  2. It's unusual to see English and American poets grouped together like that. My mom got me a volume of Carl Sandburg's poetry for Christmas but I haven't read it yet. I'm more of a fan of the Romantic poets (shocking, I know ^_^). Sarah Teasdale is probably my favorite.

  3. Marinela- It was hard to just pick two!

    Nymeth- I don't read as much poetry as I'd like to, but I do find it beautiful.

    heidenkind- Romantic poets??? I never would have guessed! ;) I have not read any Sarah Teasdale. I will have to go look her poetry up.


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