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I'm looking to buy a poetry anthology and wondered if anyone would like to recommend one. I've got a couple that have lots of the older, more well known stuff, but they are all pretty weak on recent poets (from the early/mid 20th century onwards).

 

Can anyone suggest an anthology of modern poetry, that might fill this gap? If it has a little bit of info about the poets and poems too, to set them in some sort of context, that would be even better.

 

(If you want to suggest other anthologies too, to make the thread more generally useful - do go ahead!)

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I've also been looking for one of these for a while, sadly without success.

 

I am fond of the two 'Poetry Please' anthologies from the radio4 programme, but they were published in the 1980s, so don't contain anything really modern.

 

The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems includes poems by several modern poets, and many of the poems relate to winter, rather than being specific to Christmas. Unfortunately it does not include any biographical notes.

 

A quick look at Amazon has not been of any help, so if anyone does know of such an anthology, here are two customers looking for it!

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I'm going to drag the family to an excellent independant book shop near us, this afternoon. (They don't know this yet :D ) which has a really good poetry section. I'll report back if I see anything promising.

 

(It has a good cafe as well, so they won't be too upset!)

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Ok, here are the results of my research, for what it's worth....

 

The only modern anthology I actually physically found was The Bloodaxe Book of 20th Century Poetry (edited by Edna Longley )- which looked pretty good as far as I could tell. It was about an inch thick, so it wasn't massively comprehensive, but it was easily portable, or readable in bed without tiring your arms out!! It had about 50 poets in - including almost all the names that I was vaguely looking for - with about 3-6 poems by each. Each poet had an introduction and some short comments on individual poems. Difficult to judge how helpful they would turn out to be.

 

I also found that the Oxford Book of Verse had a couple of modern day equivalents listed.....The Oxford Book of 20th Century Verse, (edited by Philip Larkin - but published in 1973, so there's a big chunk of the 20th century missing, I'm guessing!!) There was also the Oxford Book of Contempory Verse listed, covering about 1940-1980. Didn't actually see either of these, though - and I get the impression they may well be HUGE hardback 3 inch things, - which may or maynot be a good thing, depending on your biceps!

 

Not quite the same thing, but you may be interested all the same, if you're looking to learn more about modern poetry. I've just dug out a book I bought a couple of years ago, and then forgot about ( :o ) It's called 52 Ways of Looking At A Poem, by Ruth Padel. She takes 52 different modern poems - one per chapter - and talks about each in some detail. It's based on a series of columns from the Independant on Sunday - so it's pretty accessible and seems to be an interesting, thoughtful and detailed look at a wide cross section of modern stuff - some well known names, but many that were new - to me at least.

 

So - there you go!

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I bought quite a lot of poetry books in the late 60s, early 70s, so have quite a lot of stuff from the first half of the 20th century (Penguin did an excellent series of slim volumes, each containing work by 3 different poets). I do notice a tendency towards gloom and introspection in poems of that period, which is understandable, bearing in mind the political events of the time.

More recently there has been a lighter touch, not necessarily in subjects, but in the way they are handled. The last quarter century has produced some wonderfully pithy comments on modern life, and they have often been done with irony and humour, which makes them more accessible.

 

What I'm waiting for is an anthology of late twentieth century verse, but how long, I wonder?

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I was a bit annoyed that some of the so-called "20th Century" anthologies seemed to stop in about 1975, too. The Bloodaxe volume, though, was published this year, or last year, though - so it may be worth a look and contain a reasonable selection from the 80s and 90s.

 

You sound like you know enough about poetry from the past couple of decades, to have some sort of an overview.....who would you recommend as being worth reading?

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Most of the poetry that has attracted my attention in recent years has been stuff I've heard on the radio, so I don't have anything in print (that's why I'm looking for a contemporary anthology). I can only give you the names that I can recall and there may have been only one poem of that particular writer that I have heard and enjoyed, so can't really recommend any.

 

Female Poets:

U.A. Fanthorpe; Carol Ann Duffy; Wendy Cope; Liz Lochhead; Elaine Feinstein.

 

Male Poets: (mostly performance poets, and humorous and/or political)

Benjamin Zephaniah; John Hegley; Adrian Mitchell; Ian McMillan; Roger McGough; Brian Patten; Michael Rosen.

 

Quite a lot of the mid-century poets are still writing, particularly the 'Beat Poets', but have been well anthologised. My favourite from that era, Charles Causely, sadly died last year, and although his work is also in many anthologies I have to include him here!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Having half an hour to spare before being picked up from the supermarket, I popped into Ottakars (Will I never learn?!) and had a browse in the poetry section.

 

I was very tempted by 'The New Poetry' ed. Michael Hulse and others, pub. Bloodaxe:

Synopsis

'A first anthology of the new British and Irish poets of the 80s and 90s, with selected works from over 50 key poets, including John Ash, Ciaran Carson, Michael Donaghy, Paul Durcan and many others.'

 

It consists of poems by poets born between 1941 and 1962 (set out in chronological order), so is as up-to-date as you can get.

 

However, I actually bought 'Staying Alive' and 'Being Alive' (both also published by Bloodaxe) - well, I don't have many vices!- The poems in these books came from a slightly longer timespan, and a wider geographical area. Many of them I have never heard of!

 

Will report on my findings as I work my way through them.

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The main drawback, so far, is the lack of biographical notes on the poets, though that doesn't seem to be a problem these days, thanks to 'google' et al.

 

There is a long introduction to 'Staying Alive', which has some interesting things to say about the nature of poetry, and about the reading of poems, which I have skimmed through. Have not been sufficiently awake and alert since buying it to really take on board. Neil Astley's ideas.

 

They are both quite substantial books, so it will be some time before I can work my way through them. Most of the poets are unknown to me ( I chose these books for the few familiar names, rather than'The New Poetry", which were all unfamiliar), but I have already taken a liking to some of the poems of Alden Nowlan. look out for his name appearing in the Poetry Chain!

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A famous anthology, though it's hard to find, is The Postmoderns which is a

famous small collection. Rarer still is it's companion called the Poetics of the Postmoderns. There's the Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, The Vintage Book of Contemorpary American Poetry, Anthology of Modern American Poetry, Contemporary American Poetry, Postmodern American Poetry:A Norton Anthology, The Poetry of Our World: An International Anthology of Contemporary Poetry. A good American Poetry magazine which is more like a newspaper is American Poetry Review. Also, a good source of infromation, is Poets House here in New York.

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Americans do seem to be much better at producing poetry books, and there also seems to be more available on line. I do like our 'Home Grown' poets, 'though, and although they are available in collections from individual writers it isn't so easy to find them anthologised.

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For modern poets, I enjoy dipping into "Fire Box: Poetry from Britain and Ireland After 1945", edited by Sean O'Brien. Its very varied and even keeps a non-poetry reader like me interested. The amazon page has hardly any details on it, and I don't have it with me to remind me who's in it, but its really good. Anyone else read it? I found a couple of reviews from a google search:

http://www.johnkinsella.org/reviews/armitageetc.html

http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=8087

Hmm, that last one isn't very complimentary about it. I guess its easier to pick holes in an anthology than to create on yourself.

http://www.thepoetryhouse.org/Textonly/Topsection/Petryrooms/uk_contemporary.html

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I'm a complete copy cat - and unashamed!

 

I've just ordered Staying Alive and Being Alive from Amazon :D

 

(through BGO, of course ;) )

 

It wasn't until I was at the desk with the books and the plastic in my hand that I thought about Amazon (had never bought from Amazon until I bought Cloud Atlas for the BGO Book Club a week or so later). Have been feeling guilty ever since!

 

Hope you enjoy the poems.

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"Staying Alive" arrived today - and I've been dipping in to it ever since.

 

I feel quite giddy and over-excited at the prospect of so many exciting things to discover - like an explorer about to set foot on a whole new continent!

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