I’ve been looking at lists of 10, 30 and 50 Greatest Poets and Greatest Poems to give myself some perspective on yesterday’s surprise about people not recognising the name Adlestrop. Robert Frost ranks highly in most lists. Edward Thomas, his friend, does not. Frost after surviving the trip back to America in 1915, which was not a foregone conclusion in that year, as the Lusitania shows, developed a poetic career and eventually died at the age of 88. Thomas enlisted in 1915, prompted by Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, and was killed in 1917. It seems to me that poetic reputations are often developed by such quirks of history, rather than by the quality of the poetry. Death, and its timing has a lot to do with reputations. Thomas died too soon, Byron died at about the right time, at which point he became a legend rather than a mere poet. I could name several poets who died too late, but that would be mean-spirited.
What I can tell you about some of the lists is that I haven’t heard of many of the poets on one of the lists, which, as far as I can tell, was chosen on political rather than poetic grounds. Such is life when you start making lists. Any list you make is bound to be biased, though you only notice when it is biased in a way you don’t like.
The average list is composed of classic white men with a few Indians, Japanese and female poets thrown in jut to show how well read the lister is. I’m always left with a feeling that these lists reveal just how little I really know about poetry and how any list I write on this subject should not be titled “100 Best Poets” but “100 best Poets in the Opinion of a man of limited reading and ingrained prejudices”. This would be more accurate.
It’s the same with many articles in the news, in the UK they should all be qualified with the words “written by a young and overconfident Oxbridge graduate”.
And that is the opinion of the blogger Quercus Community (a miserable old git who is not fond of modern life and young people).
I think that Gerard Manley Hopkins is my favourite poet though T S Eliot runs him close. I just like the sound of words and never mind the meaning.
Hopkins was a master of words, and I still remember being excited by his poetry when I was a teenager. Eliot was harder work but ism one of my favourites. And Dylan Thomas – like Hopkins – a lot of words.
I haven’t read much Dylan Thomas apart from the obvious one.
So much poetry, so little time . . .
I agree with Derrick.
Most 100 best ‘reads,authors, poets …’ etc are biased in one way or another and are not definitive. I know ‘Adelstrop’; in fact yes, I remember Adelstrop (such a beautiful and moving poem, it brings tears to my eyes) and have read quite a lot of Thomas’ writing and really enjoy it.
I keep meaning to read more, but my concentration has gone and I am struggling with books. I was surprised to see Wordsworth as the best poet in one list. I’ve never really taken to him and thought he was out of fashion. Just goes to show . . .
I can’t concentrate either.
Oh dear, the beginning of the end . . . 🙂
sadly, yes 😉
I am not far behind you. In fact I am so slow these days I am behind everyone . . . 🙂
There is much good sense about list making in this post
Thank you Derrick. 🙂
I also agree with Derrick. 🙂
The main problem with almost all lists is that they are usually composed by Americans who unfortunately do not normally know that there is any other country or peoples in the world unless the said country is tending to lean slightly to the left. In this case they will first of all send naive and narrow minded men in neat suits and CIA approval to do what they can to stop the afore said lean.
According to many American commentators on the internet I live in a dangerously leftist country, so am not the best man to comment. As Boris Johnson was born in the USA, you have to wonder if he is part of a long-term CIA plot to destabilise the country.
A Manchurian Candidate no less. He acted in the past in the same sort of clumsy, dangerous and ineffective way that is the habit of many CIA agents.