Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 29 April, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 3 Comments

a.k.a. the poetry edition πŸ™‚ I made it a point this year to read some/more poetry, so that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since January. I’ve been reading them in bouts, which is a nice break from reading the heftier novels on my shelf and whatnot. Without further ado, poetry books read and reviewed:

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
By: Emily Dickinson
Format/Source: eBook

It is here, in “The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson,” that we witness her singular poetic depth and range of style. Collected are the first three series of her posthumous publishing career coming out respectively in 1890, 1891, and 1896. The myth that surrounds Dickinson’s life is enhanced by the ethereal quality of her poetry. With the coming of New Criticism in the 1930’s and 40’s, Dickinson experienced unprecedented posthumous acclaim, solidifying her place in American letters. Dickinson’s idiom is as varied as her meter, and her unconventional use of punctuation, metaphor, and image make her an innovator of the lyric akin to many of the early modernists. These poems examine love, death, and nature with an effortless yet complex tone and voice. Now one of the most read and admired American poets, Dickinson’s poetry continues to resonate with readers.

I’ve long heard and encountered Emily Dickinson’s poems in passing, but I never focused on her works before. Reading her collected poems is quite an experience because it enables its reader to see the progression of her poetic style. Much of the themes were pretty consistent over the years, though there are notable emphasis on particular themes as the years progressed, a deeper reflection into life, death, and the passage of time, many of which are insightful and lovely to read. I think my favourite poems from her come from the earlier stages of her writing; it’s not just because they are shorter, but there’s something about shorter poems that capture words and feelings succinctly.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Sonnets from the Portuguese
By: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Format/Source: eBook

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a prolific writer and reviewer in the Victorian period, and in her lifetime, her reputation as a poet was at least as great as that of her husband, poet Robert Browning. Some of her poetry has been noted in recent years for strong feminist themes, but the poems for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is undoubtedly best know are Sonnets from the Portuguese. Written for Robert Browning, who had affectionately nicknamed her his “little Portuguese,” the sequence is a celebration of marriage, and of one of the most famous romances of the nineteenth century. Recognized for their Victorian tradition and discipline, these are some of the most passionate and memorable love poems in the English language. There are forty-four poems in the collection, including the very beautiful sonnet, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

Another famous poet and her classic collection of poetry πŸ™‚ Her style of poetry is of course quite different compared to Emily Dickinson’s (I don’t mean to compare the two poets, but I did read their collections sort of back-to-back), much more Victorian in manner, but still very interesting and evokes much passion and love in the verses. Obviously the most famous ones stand out from the collection, but reading all of her works in this particular volume was a fantastic experience.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Penguin’s Poems for Love
Edited by: Laura Barber
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Here are poems to take you on a journey from the ‘suddenly’ of love at first sight to the ‘truly, madly, deeply’ of infatuation and on to the ‘eternally’ of love that lasts beyond the end of life, along the way taking in flirtation, passion, fury, betrayal and broken hearts. Bringing together the greatest love poetry from around the world and through the ages, ranging from W. H. Auden to William Shakespeare, John Donne to Emily Dickinson, Robert Browning to Roger McGough, this new anthology will delight, comfort and inspire anyone who has ever tasted love – in any of its forms.

A compilation of poems is sure to be a hit or miss when it comes to me–or any compilation, really–so this book can be a bit of a mixed bag. Indeed, I remember one of my criticisms the first time around about this collection was how much of the poems featured in this book–and in Penguin’s Poems for Life–were derived from the English-speaking world. There are lots of gorgeous love poetry from the Spanish and Latin American literature (or I’m biased because I love Lorca), but alas, guess will have to seek out more of those separately. Nonetheless, I was glad to revisit this collection; coupled with that free Audible back in February of Richard Armitage reciting some famous love poems, it was interesting to revisit the poems and see which ones are famous, which ones resonated with me more this time around (Kate Clanchy’s “Patagonia” was just lovely to read this time, very memorable).

Rating: ★★★½☆

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The Suppressed Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1830-1868
By: Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Format/Source: eBook

To those unacquainted with Tennyson’s conscientious methods, it may seem strange that a volume of 160 pages is necessary to contain those poems written and published by him during his active literary career, and ultimately rejected as unsatisfactory. Of this considerable body of verse, a great part was written, not in youth or old age, but while Tennyson’s powers were at their greatest. Whatever reasons may once have existed for suppressing the poems that follow, the student of English literature is entitled to demand that the whole body of Tennyson’s work should now be open, without restriction or impediment, to the critical study to which the works of his compeers are subjected.

I haven’t gone back to re-visit John Keats yet, but I find Lord Tennyson more accessible, I think :3 His love poetry is very passionate, and he’s also got some really political poems in this collection. Some of the works featured int his collection are fragments, some from collected periodicals and newspapers, which provides for an interesting mix. But when he writes long poems, he really writes long poems O_O But yeah, I like how some of his peoms focuses on life and pondering on why things are the way they are; the poem that sticks out from this collection in my mind is “The how and the why.” A very interesting collection on the whole.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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And that’s it for this batch of mini-reviews! Have you read any of these collections or any works from these poets? If so, what did you think of them?

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3 Responses to “Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews”

  1. I see here you have a new look ^^d
    Well, I haven’t read any of these collections but I’d like to read Emily Dickinson and Lord Tennyson poems.

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