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Food For The Soul
March 19, 2008 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Great Poets Of The 20th Century. From The Guardian so Brit bias... Introduction, William Boyd on Siegfried Sassoon, John Banville on Seamus Heaney, Jeanette Winterson on Ted Hughes, Andrew Motion on Philip Larkin, Margaret Drabble on Sylvia Plath, Rowan Williams on WH Auden, Craig Raine on T.S. Eliot.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (30 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just read Williams on Auden for a refresher and enjoyed it very much. Excellent find, fearful!
posted by Dizzy at 6:44 AM on March 19, 2008


OMG!!! BRIT BIAS!!! ALERT! ALERT!! MAN PERSON THE BARRICADES! DEFEND THE COASTS! NON_US OPINION ALERT!!!! AIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

And so forth...
posted by i_cola at 7:02 AM on March 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


In the 90s the idea of poetry was almost poisoned for me forever by the unbelievable badness and arrogance of the work presented at poetry slams. It's good to be reminded that there's lots of great 20th century poetry knocking around. Some of these guys like Sassoon and Heaney I don't think I've ever read.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:09 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love the photograph they chose for Heaney.
posted by steef at 7:26 AM on March 19, 2008


Yes--- why did they put a photo of Gertrude Stein on the cover of Heaney's book, steef?
posted by Dizzy at 7:32 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Excellent !
thank you
posted by nicolin at 7:45 AM on March 19, 2008


i_cola - you beat me to it...
posted by sam and rufus at 7:50 AM on March 19, 2008


this is just to say

i have skipped over
the article
that was in
this fpp

and which
was probably
thought not to be
a dog's breakfast

forgive me
they are so brit-centric
so narrow
and so not cool
posted by pyramid termite at 8:23 AM on March 19, 2008


Here's one of the more underrated British poets of the 20th century. He was an astounding talent, with a small output.

Basil Bunting was a true original, a master in a way of verbal rhythm and onomatopoeia

Here's more and more and more and more.
posted by MetaMan at 8:33 AM on March 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


What's all this complaining about Brit-centrism? Plath and Eliot were both 'Mericun (though Eliot switched teams), and Auden became a USian in '46.
posted by steef at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2008


Basil Bunting! Meta, you have restored my faith in MeFi for another six months.

One very American poet who was heavily influenced by Bunting in mid-career: Allen Ginsberg. I attended some of Ginsberg's lectures at Naropa on the subject.


What The Chairman Told Tom
by Basil Bunting

Poetry? It's a hobby.
I run model trains.
Mr Shaw there breeds pigeons.

It's not work. You don't sweat.
Nobody pays for it.
You could advertise soap.

Art, that's opera; or repertory --
The Desert Song.
Nancy was in the chorus.

But to ask for twelve pounds a week -
married, aren't you? --
you've got a nerve.

How could I look a bus conductor
in the face
if I paid you twelve pounds?

Who says it's poetry, anyhow?
My ten year old
can do it and rhyme.

I get three thousand and expenses,
a car, vouchers,
but I'm an accountant.

They do what I tell them,
my company.
What do you do?

Nasty little words, nasty long words,
it's unhealthy.
I want to wash when I meet a poet.

They're Reds, addicts,
all delinquents.
What you write is rot.

Mr Hines says so, and he's a schoolteacher,
he ought to know.
Go and find work.

posted by digaman at 8:46 AM on March 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Bunting on MetaFilter - so good it's almost a gerund!"

Great post, thanks.
posted by languagehat at 8:52 AM on March 19, 2008


Those interested in 20th c. British poetry and who don't require traditional meter or rhyme might also try out Basil Bunting, Tom Raworth, Geraldine Monk, Maggie O'Sullivan, Bob Cobbing, Bill Griffiths, Edwin Morgan, Denise Riley, Ken Edwards, Eavan Boland, Barry MacSweeney, Jon Silkin, and Douglas Oliver (among many others). (It's sad but I guess inevitable how many poets who envigorated poetry in the 50-70s have passed away in the last decade or so.)
posted by aught at 9:34 AM on March 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


And Jonathan Williams has just been added to that sad list. I'd do a post but I don't have the time or the heart. RIP, you lovable gadfly.
posted by languagehat at 9:44 AM on March 19, 2008


Ha! I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Briggflatts - basically arguing that despite Bunting's personal dislike of Eliot, Briggflatts is the long poem that Eliot would have written had he written a long poem in 1965. That is, Bunting's view of a highly regional community shaped not just by race but by language and sound (Bunting once said that if you couldn't read Briggflatts aloud in the accent of Northumberland, you couldn't fully understand the poem - or something to that effect) was the natural end-point of Eliot's own progressing view of community, which in The Waste Land was almost global and became increasing nationally- and even regionally-oriented in works like The Hollow Men and Four Quartets.
posted by taliaferro at 9:53 AM on March 19, 2008


Weird lists call for weird responses--Frances Leviston says it doesn't matter that only one woman makes an appearance. Todd Swift responds.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 11:07 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite 20th century poets is almost never read. His name is Edward Dorn, and he wrote Gunslinger, a comic-epic of incredible vitality and energy. Is he a great poet? I'm not sure—but he's certainly a readable, entertaining one, and that's something missing in a lot of modern poetry.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2008


As usual, the broadsheets' quality papers' promotional giveaways for the month are suspiciously identical: Great Poets as chosen by the Indy, presented in the form of dinky booklets and the odd CD, just like the Grauniad.

Still, beats all those sodding wallcharts.
posted by jack_mo at 12:53 PM on March 19, 2008


I have a hard time taking Margaret Drabble seriously, because I always imagine that her articles are written and read out loud by June Drabble.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 1:25 PM on March 19, 2008


My God, who knew that MeFi was a virtual ghetto of Buntingheads? That's wonderful, Taliaferro.

Another fine American poet who was profoundly influenced by Bunting -- and heard him read Briggflatts in person -- is August Kleinzahler [bio] [on Creeley] [poems online, but not his best].

Sonic, I once saw Dorn read through all of Gunslinger. It was mindblowing.
posted by digaman at 1:27 PM on March 19, 2008


Man, I had forgotten how great that Gunslinger cover is. I could sleep forever curled up in that G.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 1:38 PM on March 19, 2008


Thanks digaman - I'll have to check out more of Kleinzaahler. I really like that first poem you linked to, particularly the slide back into iambs at the end. I also like this description of his poetry from the bio: "like a rummage sale after the death of someone who adored both Shakespeare and smut."
posted by taliaferro at 1:46 PM on March 19, 2008


I'll also check out more of spelling people's names correctly. I really like extra 'a's.
posted by taliaferro at 1:47 PM on March 19, 2008


Brit bias...

No Betjeman, so...not THAT biased.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:45 PM on March 19, 2008


Not so much a Brit bias as an aesthetically conservative bias, I'd say. I like several of the poets here quite a lot, so my problem isn't that they've been included. But it's sad that it's hard to imagine Bunting or Tom Raworth on the Guardian's list of the century's "greatest poets," and I think they deserve to be there as much as anyone else does.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 4:43 PM on March 19, 2008


digaman, I envy you that. Was he a good speaker? I know next to nothing about him.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:41 PM on March 19, 2008


lucia, everyone knows Betjeman is overrated. ;)
posted by steef at 7:48 PM on March 19, 2008


I don't think Heaney's a Brit either.

But they probably only put Plath in the list because the Hughes haters would cause a stink if the didn't.
posted by seanyboy at 1:42 AM on March 20, 2008


My bad. Born in N.I. so he is.
posted by seanyboy at 1:47 AM on March 20, 2008


Sonic, yes he was. Dorn had that grizzled outlaw vibe, old-school macho illuminated by a subtle muse. It was a wonderful reading.
posted by digaman at 5:58 PM on March 20, 2008


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