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

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  795 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
The great critic presents his personal selection, with commentary, of the finest poems in the English language. 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 reflecti ...more
Paperback, 972 pages
Published 2004 by Harper Collins
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Perry
Dec 30, 2012 Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poetry Man
"Talk to me some more
You don't have to go
You're the poetry man
You make things all right."
Phoebe Snow, Poetry Man, 1974

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.” Plato

This anthology of poetry in the English language covers a chronology (by each poet's date of birth) from Chaucer, born in 1343, to Hart Crane, born in 1899. For each of the 108 poets in his anthology
...more
Jee Koh
Mar 18, 2013 Jee Koh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Linda
Jul 29, 2011 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
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.
Rick O'Connor
Jun 22, 2016 Rick O'Connor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I discovered this anthology of poetry for this class, but I absolutely will be using it for my English classes once school starts again. I love books like this, especially when the author calls it "The Best...", which obviously opens the door to controversy and disagreement. To me, this provokes thought and discussion, and you can begin to debate why something made it and something did not.

While I wouldn't say I am a poetry "expert," I have done my share of teaching poetry over the past six yea
...more
Avital
May 07, 2008 Avital rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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."
Steven Peterson
Jun 17, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeremy
May 23, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, poetry, theory, canon
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
Joel
Jul 03, 2013 Joel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Gerbik
Jan 08, 2009 Gerbik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
RB
Dec 28, 2016 RB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So many terrific poems to keep you company for many years.
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jun 26, 2008 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Andrew
Jun 26, 2016 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think the first things I should mention about this collection are the positives aspects about it. Bloom is unforgiving in his evaluation of poets and rarely gives contradictory views (perhaps in 2-3 instances, most notably he revered Dr. Samuel Johnson). This is a positive because it allows for simplicity. Secondly, the quality of the poems in this collection are superb. Bloom does a fantastic job also setting expectations and giving a very brief, yet effective bio. It should be noted the down ...more
Eleni
Jul 28, 2011 Eleni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
James
Nov 16, 2009 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, anthology
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
Luke
Aug 20, 2016 Luke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is difficult to review such a anthology, except to say it does the job magnificiently. It does not leave the reader helpless - it introduces the poet with some analysis and then presents the poem simply to be enjoyed to give a taste to the reader. The range of poets, excluding the nauseating contemporary poets, is simply magnificient and unrivalled - especially when considered that this is one man and even for some two-good-poems poets Bloom does introductions.

I think you can't go wrong with
...more
Bobsie67
Jul 24, 2009 Bobsie67 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
lucke1984
Mar 31, 2007 lucke1984 rated it it was ok  ·  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.
Beks
Dec 09, 2014 Beks rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those who want exposure to some of the most famous poets and poetry, this is worth flicking through. My main gripe is this: you would think the only people that speak English are from the UK or USA. Did you know Australia is also a predominantly English speaking nation, as are others? There may not be many good poems but it did feel limited. Also, (though if this were the case the anthology would be HUGE) translated poems from non-English speaking languages would have been really interesting ...more
Nounce
May 19, 2012 Nounce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Aug 22, 2009 Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) 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
Ryan
Apr 01, 2011 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Eleni
Jul 28, 2011 Eleni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
David Hollywood
Jan 04, 2015 David Hollywood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
But for the fact I had to apply some subjectivity to the collection I would have given this 5 stars, and the limitation is probably mine because of the books exclusion of a small number of my own favourites. But this book is brilliant, and encapsulates wonderful descriptions of the poets and poems and then places them within a time and circumstance and surrounds this with the most captivating of poetry. Superb!
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.
Rashel
Dec 20, 2016 Rashel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
working through some of the easier passages. This is an amazing book - to teach me how to understand poetry and what is important about each author/their perspective and their place in time. The only poets I really had experience with before this was Poe ...gaily bedight... and Carroll. Walrus is so very deep - the time has come my friend..to talk of many things - and Poe is just a methodical beat. Now I've encountered some astoundingly great poetry, I'm a better person for it.
Terence Manleigh
A marvelous anthology collected by Professor Bloom, with commentary on each poet and a really eloquent introduction on the art of poetry. All the laurel-crowned heads you'd expect are represented, and quite a few poets I'd never encountered before. Rather like a master's course in English and American poetry by the time you're done.
Erika
Dec 19, 2007 Erika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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!
Lady Dixie
If Harold Bloom, the grand kahuna of all literary critics, says a poem is good enough to be considered one of the best, that's good enough for me. He's always illuminating, frequently entertaining, and often rather funny. How does this guy have time to eat or sleep? He seems to have read everything.
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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.
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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.” 3 likes
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