16 February 2012

A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology

As I sit in Fullers Bookshop writing as Cafe Poet, there are many temptations around me.

Here is one very special book: A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry

This collection of 300 poems from writers around the world is selected and edited by the poet and Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz. He brings together poets from poets all over the world and places poets who are very different from each other in terms of their geography, culture, and time period alongside each other. The 11th Century Chinese poet Su Tung P'o sits alongsids 20th Century American poet Robert Morgan for instance. Milosz uses broad themes as an organisation structure for the anthology: I don't especially like this "organising" but educators might find it useful: the broad categories representing the themes he finds in the poems are, for example, “Nature,” “People among People,” “The Secret of a Thing”, “Travel”, “History” ...

Milosz’s introduction, and his notes that head each section of the anthology, make the anthology very informative. He also explains how he arrived at the poets he selected for the anthology:

“My proposition consists in presenting poems, whether contemporary or a thousand years old, that are, with few exceptions, short, clear, readable, and, to use a compromised term, realist, that is, loyal toward reality and attempting to describe it as concisely as possible. This they undermine the widely held opinion that poetry is a misty domain eluding understanding. I act like an art collector who, to spite the devotees of abstract art, arranges an exhibition of figurative painting, putting together canvases from various epochs to prove, since those from the past and from the present meet in an unexpected way, that certain lines of development, different from those now universally accepted, can be traced.”

Some of the poets included are: Philip Levine (currently US poet laureate), Walt Whitman, W. S. Merwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, Wang Wei, Tu Fu, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Seamus Heaney, Antonio Machado, Franz Wright, Linda Gregg, Constantine Cavafy, May Swenson, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson – and many many more.

(Review adapted by Anne Kellas from the Poet.org webpage about this anthology.)

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