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« If I Were an Editor 10 redux | Main | TV Alert »

October 02, 2002

War Poetry redux

Friedrich --

Sweet of you to think of me as 2blowhards' resident "poetry expert," but if I am indeed that then 2blowhards, not to mention poetry, is in pretty bad shape. I see that Penguin publishes an anthology of First World War poetry, buyable here. There's always Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" to be savored, readable for free (bless the Web) here. But, like you, I don't know of much poetry that came out of later wars. I trust you'll be doing the necessary research, and getting back to us with the results and your conclusions?

I've got a lousier-than-most, English-major background in American and British poetry, and a slightly better, almost-majored-in-French education in French poetry. These days, I read poetry spottily and quirkily. (These days, doing anything systematically seems out of my reach.) I notice that I go through phases, intense but always short, of falling in love with Asian poetry. Do you plunge in to the poetry world from time to time?

I occasionally surface with a find, a recent one of which is Wendy Cope. Her name will come as no surprise to Brits, droves of whom have been reading her for years. But many Americans who might enjoy her are probably unaware of her work, which is modest, impish, accessible, and touching: "minor," but in the best possible sense. (Possible forthcoming blog posting: "the major pleasures of minor art.")

wendy cope.jpg
Wendy Cope

Her most well-known book is "Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis," and if you get a kick out of that title, you'll probably get a kick out of her poetry. The Observer runs an enjoyable interview with her here.

Sample passage:

I began writing just after I started living on my own for the first time. I didn't have anyone at home to talk to. That was important. In recent years, I thought, well now I have got someone at home to talk to maybe I won't write any more. But I'm still writing.

I discovered a few years ago that I generally enjoy listening to poetry (on audiobook, mostly) more than reading it. The BBC runs a good page devoted to poets reading their work here. If you scroll down a bit, you'll find Wendy Cope reading "Men and their Boring Arguments." You'll find a recording of Tennyson reading "The Charge of the Light Brigade" too, amazingly enough.



posted by Michael at October 2, 2002


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