Monday, January 22, 2007

American Poets Project

I love this multicolored collection of slim volumes of poems from The Library of America. I also have a few of their normal volumes like Tom Paine's Collected Works or The Novels of Raymond Chandler but the print is small and paper too thin for me to enjoy reading and the uniform black covers don't have much shelf appeal.

This series of American poets has a contemporary poet servings as editor for a particular volume such as J.D. McClatchy for selections of Edna St. Vincent Millay or Robert Pinsky on William Carlos Williams, and Whitman deserves no less than Harold Bloom. I am still hoping for them to come out with selections from Hart Crane, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens. They serve as great introductions to poets and are nice pocket editions to carry around.

The only one that strikes me as a filling a much needed space is the volume of selected lyrics by Cole Porter. He has written some great songs certainly but the words on the page read cold when divested of their music and it doesn't quite work for me. I would preferred a companion cd at least if they insist on publishing lyrics. I get one of these every couple of months directly in the mail and every fifth one or so is half off. I think the next one due out is Kenneth Koch so I will leave him with the last word. I am off to Ohio tomorrow and will return sometime on Friday.

from One Train May Hide Another
(sign at a railroad crossing in Kenya)

In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
That is, if you are waiting to cross
The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at
Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read
Wait until you have read the next line—
Then it is safe to go on reading.

Kenneth Koch

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