I don’t read a lot of poetry, but it is something I’m always interested in exploring. So I’m grateful to Yale University Press for offering me a review copy of this new anthology compiled by the Oxford professor John Carey.
Carey’s book includes poets ranging chronologically from Homer to Toni Morrison. For some poets, there’s a single poem; for others, Carey takes us through several extracts. So it was interesting, for example, to sample the varied ways in which Homer has been translated over the centuries.
100 Poets gave me the chance to read some well-known poems that I hadn’t before: an extract from Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale made me smile, and I was drawn in by Poe’s ‘The Raven’. Then there were names unfamiliar to me. Two war poems stand out as examples: ‘Rouen’ by May Wedderburn Cannan, a vivid portrait of a WW1 nursing unit; and Louis Simpson’s ‘Carentan O Carentan’, a stark account of a battle.
I appreciated Carey’s commentary, especially in the entries with multiple poems; indeed, there are some where I’d have liked more context. But, no question, 100 Poets is a good anthology to dip into – or to read straight through, like I did. Whatever your experience of poetry, I think you’ll find something here to enjoy.