Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Near Perfect Book of Poems

In a past post, I talked about the fact that most collections of poetry contain about 3 to 5 good poems; anything over that I consider to be a good book of poems, a success if you will. It is so rare that an entire book of poetry, poem by poem, is engaging, with perhaps the exception of a selected poems (and even then ...).

Here's a comment on that thought:

I was quite intrigued with your idea of the poetry book that a particular reader might find nearly perfect from beginning to end. Readers choices would certainly be subjective and very interesting! I've thought of four. They were published in 1609, 1923, 1928 and 1962.



I, too, was intrigued and was also curious as to what were Jeffrey's 4 choices; for that matter, I, too, am curious if anyone else has any thoughts about what they consider to be a perfect or near perfect book of poems. So, my reply:

I think you have a great idea about asking for readers' choices of poetry books that are consistently good throughout. Maybe I'll see if folks would be interested in sharing which books they feel are nearly perfect in a future post.

Since you obviously have 4 in mind, would you like to begin by sharing which ones they are?


Here are Jeffrey's 4 volumes of near perfect poems:

1. The Sonnets (William Shakespeare/1609)

2. Harmonium (Wallace Stevens/1923)

3. The Tower (W.B. Yeats/1928)

4. Silence In The Snowy Fields (Robert Bly/1962)

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Is there one (or more) book(s) of poems you think is near perfect, including selected poems? Small press, big press, classic, contemporary, and everything in between, it doesn't matter - it just needs to fit the bill.

Honestly, I'm not sure if there are any that I can think of myself offhand that fit the definition, so obviously I need to go back and think this through a bit more thoroughly. I can think of a lot of my favorite books of poetry but I'm not sure they would make the cut. If you are so inclined, send responses (including if you think there is no such thing) via the comment link and I'll post them as I get them.

To add some incentive to all this expended brain power, for the next week anyone responding to this question will receive a 6 issue gift subscription to Lilliput Review. If you are already a subscriber, I'll extend your current subscription by 6 issues.

Deadline: May 6th.

Till tomorrow,


PS If you are completely stumped, how about sending along the name of your favorite (if imperfect) book of poems? If you do before the deadline, the subscription offer applies. Please do however let me know if it's just a fav or if it really is near perfect. I'll continue to encourage people to send in their thoughts after the deadline; just no gift subscriptions after the 6th.


pieplate said...

I propose Rilke's "New Poems [1908]--The Other Part", in or out of Edward Snow's passionate attentive translation.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks very much for the Rilke title. I'll be posting it along with others chosen sometime in the coming week.


Anonymous said...

Don, great contest. To find such works is rare indeed, especially among contemporary poets. Nevertheless, I'm going to mention two that I think are superb from writers living today. You've likely heard of one of them, but I'm sure you haven't heard of the other. They are Thirst by Patrick Carrington and The Waiting Room at the End of the World by Jeff Rath. Both books are incredible through and through.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks very much for your note and the two books you've chosen. I will be posting your choices on the website sometime this week.

If you would send me your mailing info I will start up your 6 issue gift subscription right away. You can send it via the email address that you will find at the bottom of the sidebar or on the Lilliput homepage.


Greg said...

The only book I can think of to add to the list might be a ringer, since it's a compilation...

The Haiku Anthology, 3rd edition, edited by Cor van den Heuvel.

The best collection (not surprisingly) of haiku I've ever read.

- Greg

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Great suggestion - I was actually expecting more anthology and/or selected poems suggestions.

I will be compiling the list and posting it sometime over the next week. Also thinking about how to extend this idea. Meantime, if you could send along your snail mail address (either via email - lilliputreview at google dot com - spelled out to avoid email harvesters - or snail mail at 282 Main Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201), I will start your free Lilliput subscription right away.

Thanks again for your contribution.