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100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century
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100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  49 ratings  ·  8 reviews
Accounting for the great range of style and content with which poets such as W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Federico García Lorca, Rainer Maria Rilke, William Butler Yeats, Pablo Neruda, and Jorge Luis Borges responded to the changes and challenges of the twentieth century, 100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century is intended as both a unique compendium for the already well-ve ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1994)
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A very different, personal and stimulating anthology of 20th century poetry. One poem per author makes this a guide to great poets, rather than poems. The usual suspects, known to English language poetry readers like me are here: Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Auden, Stevens, Williams etc; and also the most famous non-English language poets: Rilke, Neruda, Lorca et al.
The distinctive feature of the anthology is that Strand usually chooses lesser-known works; he has a good spread of mid-to-late 20th centu
I love poetry and have a certain weakness for anthologies. 100 Great Poems is a rather tall promise to make in the book's title and indeed the collection doesn't quite live up to that promise. One strength of the collection is that it contains a nice range of poetry from around the world and not just English poets. However, the poems selected are uneven, some quite good, some barely poetry at all and few that I would call great.

I think the editor was trying to find lesser known poems and poets,
There are some really great poems in this collection.

I realize that it is a personal collection, and that there are many many poets and poems from the 20th century, so the editor had to restrict himself somehow. But I really feel like he missed out on including a lot of very influential poets and wonderful poems by choosing to limit the collection to poets born before 1927.
Ronald Wise
Strand explains at the beginning that he did not try to select the "greatest" poems, nor to rank them, but was trying to gather an international respresentation of great poetry written in the 20th century. For each poet there was a biographic sketch in the "Biographies" section, and I found that by reading the poet's biography first, I was better able to appreciate the poetry, knowing something about the time and situation from which it arose. Strand seemed to have a taste similar to mine in tha ...more
I think that it is really hard to make a good poetry anthology because poetry is so personal: a single poem will strike a chord with one person while it makes no sense to another. If this was the top 100 poems of the twentieth century, then the twentieth century left something to be desired in my opinion. However, because I found one or two complete gems in the anthology that I will read over and over, I gave it three stars.
I do really like anthologies, yet overall, this collection was "okay." I must mention there were a handful of exceptional poems that stood out among the mediocre and the painful to read. Two I enjoyed were Hart Crane's My Grandmother's Love Letters and In The Waiting Room by Elizabeth Bishop, just to name a couple off the top of my head.
I really liked the concept -- a poet sharing his favorite poems -- but was a little disappointed by Strand's choices, which resulted in a pretty standard "greats" selection. I'd read pretty much everyhting here before, and most of them weren't my favorites even within the corpus of the individual poets represented.
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Mark Strand is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, essayist, and translator. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1990. Since 2005, he has been a professor of English at Columbia University.
More about Mark Strand...
The Making of a Poem Selected Poems Blizzard of One Reasons for Moving / Darker / The Sargentville Notebook Almost Invisible: Poems

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