The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost
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The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Frost

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  527 ratings  ·  40 reviews
This comprehensive anthology attempts to give the common reader possession of six centuries of great British and American poetry. The book features a large introductory essay by Harold Bloom called "The Art of Reading Poetry," which presents his critical reflections of more than half a century devoted to the reading, teaching, and writing about the literary achievement he...more
Paperback, 1008 pages
Published August 7th 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published 2004)
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Jee Koh
The Best Poems of the English Language? Who could resist opening an anthology so named to see what's in it? Especially when it has the name of Harold Bloom on the front cover. It's typical of this giant of a critic's eternal self-confidence, of course, that he should name his selection the Best Poems. He begins with Chaucer, born around 1343, and ends with Hart Crane, born in 1899, and admits that by setting the latter limit, he is evading the difficult task of choosing the Best Poems by poets b...more
Avital
This will always be in "currently reading". A constant inspiration!
Harold Bloom stuns me with observations like: We begin to apprehend Blake when we realize that for him "human nature" is a wholly unacceptable phrase, an absolute contradiction, or, as he said, "an impossible absurdity." What was human about us, Blake insisted, was the imagination; what was natural about us had to be redeemed by the imagination, or else it would destroy us."
Haines
A good selection admirably edited. With the caveat that he will ignore anyone born after 1900, he gets away with the title quite nicely. However, I laughed a bit to notice, within five minutes of skimming, that Bloom's two most annoyingly persistent traits were fully on display:

1. A need to flaunt his cantankerous disregard for the academically/politically "correct."

2. His need to sell Hart Crane.

For under $20, this is a worthwhile book, and it's teaching me stuff I didn't know.
Steven Peterson
The author, Harold Bloom, has been an eminent scholar, the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University, was a MacArthur Prize Fellow, and author of numerous volumes. In his Introduction, he observes that (Page xxvii) "My chronological limits are set by Geoffrey Chaucer, born around 1343, and Hart Crane, born in 1899." There is a useful introductory essay, "The Art of Reading Poetry," that would be of interest to those who take poetry seriously.

But it is the poetry that is at the center...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Three things caused me to buy this book. The first was the inclusion of two Emily Bronte poems by Professor Bloom: ‘Stanzas’ and ‘Last Lines’. The second was the inclusion of T S Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ and the third was that 108 poets are represented in this book.

Professor Bloom selected as his chronological limits Geoffrey Chaucer, born around 1343 and Hart Crane born in 1899. Within these parameters is a wealth of British and American poetry to cover a wide range of moods and tastes.

There is...more
Linda
I love poetry and expected this to be a good addition to my collection; something that would cover some of the more well known poets. Unfortunately, they are the 'best poems' as judged by Harold Bloom. Bloom is no doubt an expert in the field and to be admired for his abilities and knowledge, but the poems and poets he selected for this book are not the traditional favourites, but rather a rag tag mix of rather obscure writers. As far as the analysis supplied by Bloom, I slogged through some of...more
Christopher H.
Oct 19, 2009 Christopher H. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christopher by: lonebearimages@gmail.com
This collection of the best poetry of the English language is superb. All of the poems were selected by Professor Harold Bloom, and are truly representative of the best poets over the past 400+ years. Professor Bloom provides some historical and literary content to the poets and most of the poems. Also, his introductory essay, "The Art of Reading Poetry," is worth the price of the book alone. This a must-have-book for any reader interested in poetry, and is perfect to sit down with and just kill...more
Joel
Bloom offers interesting commentary on authors and poems that sets this volume apart from all the other compilations that I own. While I disagree with some of his selections and omissions I applaud his style and ambition. The introductions and commentaries demonstrate Bloom's quality as a writer by presenting higher thinking that is very easy to understand which makes this particular anthology--in my mind at least--my favorite volume to recommend to readers interested in getting into poetry on a...more
lucke1984
Apr 10, 2009 lucke1984 rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the strong willed
I do not like Harold Bloom. I resent his influence, I resent his immense cataloge of knowledge, but mostly I resent the way he lords it over his readers in the book. The poems are of course beautiful but as a book that is intended for a lay audience it forces you, insidiously, to view literature the way that he does. It forces readers to believe that being able to trace the ultimate influence of a work is of paramount importance; an endevor, by the way, that is impossible for a lay person to do....more
James
An exemplary collection of the most sublime poetry in English, beginning with Chaucer and ending, contra the title, with Hart Crane. Bloom, the world's living expert of the Western poetic tradition, makes consistently exceptional choices for inclusion in this massive volume, and provides profound and scintillating commentary. This book is simply a treasure trove of the greatest cognitive music in our great language.
Jeremy
I bought this book for my eldest son (but had a good sneaky glance through before hand) and will probably end up buying another copy for myself. Not so much even for the poetry itself, since I have most of it already in other volumes, but for: Bloom's brilliant and erudite, challenging and politically-empty aesthetic-based readings on the works and workers; his introduction to the volume (which is worth the price by itself); and just to have the poetry he has selected all in the one place, along...more
Perry Hall
This anthology of poetry in the English language covers a chronology (by poet's date of birth) from Chaucer, born in 1343, to Hart Crane, born in 1899.

For each of the 108 poets in the anthology, Harold Bloom, the late longtime critic and professor at Harvard then Yale, gives a good introduction (widely varying in length) followed by some of the poet's best poetry.

Bloom also provides a 29-page introductory chapter on the Art of Reading Poetry, no easy feat. In this introduction, he makes an excel...more
Laura
Have to confess I skimmed large parts this one. Read all the commentaries carefully; skimmed a lot of the love and god poems. But the damn thing had 959 pages of text!

I’d never really appreciated Tennyson’s Ulysses before. Maybe that’s a function of age. But these words hit me like never before:

Come my friends
‘Tis not to late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sale beyond the sunset, and the baths
Off all the western stars,...more
Eleni
You can't beat cranky old Harold Bloom for selecting poems. Of course, he left out a lot I would have included, but it's fun to see what Bloom does include. I finally got to read a bunch of great poems I always wanted to read but never got around to, and was introduced to poets I never read before. I'll probably re-read a lot of the poems in this book over and over for years to come. This book is an excellent addition to anyone's personal library. Still, it wouldn't be my only poetry anthology c...more
Chris
I know "best" is a subjective word and all, but in order to take this collection seriously Mr. Bloom needed to be more objective when selecting the material. To not include Sonnet 18 and The Raven in this anthology is a disgrace to poetry. I'm also not sure how he can compliment 95% of these writers and completely pan Edgar Allan Poe, one of the greatest poets of all time. There were some other odd exclusions; plenty of famous poems didn't make the cut, but I won't go on about it because most of...more
James
This is an anthology that I continually turn to for inspiration and enjoyment. Arranged chronologically from Chaucer to Crane, the anthology is a good introduction to the familiar names in literary history, born before the twentieth century, as well as some that are somewhat less familiar to this reader. For example Leonie Adams, John Brooks Wheelwright, Trumbull Stickney, and George Darley are included among the better known Keats, Tennyson, Stevens and Frost, to name a few of the poets include...more
Ryan
The poems contained in this volume, as well as their introductions by Bloom, are all top notch. However, I can't help but feel that paying the extra price for the Norton Anthology of Poetry would have been a better choice, as it includes almost everything here as well as much, much more, and is clearly the gold standard for these sorts of poetry collections. On the plus side, Blooms text isn't as cramped as the Norton, and so it has easier to read text and thicker paper for each page, something...more
Nounce
I will be reading this book for the rest of my life, more or less. Of course the poems are well worth reading, and naturally I would never have found many of them by simply trolling through libraries. But the editorial insight and orientation as to where the authors and their works stand in relation to the history of literature and humanistic thought is invaluable. I would have had to acquire several PhD's to develop this understanding on my own. It's a reference book, like the encyclopedia: one...more
Bobsie67
Bloom is pedantic as usual in his prolougue (how to read poerty) and poet introductions. He is, as always, wonderfully opinionated. He deplores Pound (as a perosn and a poet)and Poe and loves Shakepeare, Whitman, and Stevens (as do I). Blooms erudition is without dispute, but I didn't buy the book for his opinions (which I do indeed love to read and argue with), but for the glorious poetry it contains. This is not a book that one can check off as read, since the poems need to be continually savo...more
Bruce Williams
Should be titled best "out of copy right" poems. This book is engaging enough, but completely unscrupulous. His essays are reprints of long ago introductions for the Oxford anthology series and other sources. I love hardold bloom's work - grumpy old man and enraptured seer. This is not a great reader reassessing his relationship with the poems in the English tradition, it is a cut and paste job with a nice cover and fancy title. Boo.
Eleni
A solid collection, and I mean it is solid, weighs a ton, and I'm usually surprised by what is left out of a collection rather than what the editor decides to include. Bloom managed to surprise me by some of his inclusions and his critiques really make you think about the poems through his point of view. My advice, read the poems first on their own and then go back and read Bloom's little introductions.
Cliff
I gave it four stars for the brilliance of most of the poets within it. Harold Bloom's commentary and choice of poets' poems were both faulty. He could have done better at providing general readers with more worth and accessible poems. Also, his commentary ruined some of the poems for me by focusing solely on the sexuality of them rather than the spirituality and aesthetics.
Erika
Okay, Bloom is usually difficult for me, but this is fantastic! I'm not kidding! I started reading it for a reasearch project, but then kept going because it was interesting. Basically he critiques the most important canonical poetry and offers his own snide comments that are pretty funny! His take on Milton and religion is brilliant!
Kathleen
Harold Bloom has compiled an excellent collection of poetry in English for beginning readers and enthusiastic old hands. Though I differ with him in his opinions of a few poets (including Matthew Arnold), the edition is a superb addition to any serious reader's bookshelf.
Ellen
A great overview of poetry in English...but Bloom is pretty old school. A minimum of females/people of color/etc. are represented in this anthology. But in terms of covering your basics...its a great place to start. Besides, what bookshelf is complete without Chaucer!?
Katie
I'll probably be "currently reading" this book for a very long time, because it's wonderful to pick it up a few times a week and find something sublime. Bloom is a little...pretentious...and there are some omissions, but it's a great start and a good addition to the library.
Melanie
What can I say? They are some of the best poems of the English language. I just moved it to the "read" section to clean up the "currently reading" section. This is the type of book I will be currently reading for a long time - Thanks, Aaron!
Liz
I've had several similar incarnations of this book, some of which have died rather horrible deaths. This has some of my favorite poems including: The Jumblies, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Road not Taken.
Shelleysouza
This book stays on my bedside table. I read a lot of the poetry in it as an undergraduate at the University of Warwick. I like to dip into it from time to time.
Lara Thrapp
a beautiful mixture of several centuries and styles
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Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies.
More about Harold Bloom...
Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (Modern Critical Interpretations) Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages How to Read and Why Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (Bloom's Guides)

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“The work of great poetry is to aid us to become free artists ourselves...The art of reading poetry is an authentic training in the augmentation of consciousness, perhaps the most authentic of healthy modes.” 0 likes
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