At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, June 25, 2004


"Wholesale elimination of poems by women and minorities"? Not quite: Bloom includes plenty of Emily Dickinson and deems her to be tied with Walt Whitman for the title of premier American poet. Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Browning are represented too. The exclusion of minority poets probably has more to do with the time frame of the anthology (pre-1900) than racism.

Bloom, Harold, ed. The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost. HarperCollins, $34.95.

Publishers Weekly: “Bloom’s strongly held, and deeply felt, preferences for the most productive misreadings in the language come to the fore brilliantly…while the selections that follow are significant, many are predictable; it is the headnotes that make the book indispensable…The book is filled with hundreds of taste-making turns and asides…sure to be a formative book for experienced readers and neophytes alike.” National Review: “Understandably, the vast majority of the poems in this anthology will not be unfamiliar, but the selection is generous and Bloom’s commentary is provocative.” Library Journal: “An eccentric editor (offering only four pages of George Herbert’s hard radiance while granting an inexplicable 20 to Lewis Carroll’s charming nonsense), sometimes exasperating in his smugness, Bloom rarely bores, and at this best he achieves a cogency worthy of the poets he so deeply admires.” Booklist: “However one feels about Bloom’s focus, every serious reader of poetry really must begin with the works he so ardently loves and champions, and this comprehensive anthology is an ideal starting place.” Kirkus: “The absence of Rexroth and MacDiarmid and others is puzzling. And so, too, is the presence of writers such as John Brooks Wheelwright, Walter Savage Landor, and Trumbull Stickney. Serious readers of poetry will find much room for argument in Bloom’s pages—which, in fairness, are plenty rich.” Virginia Quarterly Review: “What Bloom has done in this curious collection is to combine idiosyncratic preferences in tone and subject matter with large exclusionary categories. The glaring omissions that will immediately strike most contemporary readers derive from Bloom’s scorched earth policy toward women and minority writers. Bloom’s wholesale elimination of poems by women and minorities is disgusting and deplorable. A number of Bloom’s additions to the company of the blest are clunkers. Bloom in not fond of poems so visceral, so recklessly material. He likes philosophical platitudes refracted through layers of frenzied imagery and high rhetoric.”


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