The Canon According to Harold Bloom

O Poetry! Let us celebrate month with anthologies of the bad, good
Bloom has assembled an anthology of representative poems by English and American writers. Seen in such a light, this is a fine compendium, particularly valuable for Bloom’s important and insightful introductions to the poets and comments on individual poems.
But many of those poems are far from “best.” Bloom’s tastes are catholic and so magnanimous that he includes work by such agreeable but minor poets (among the Americans) as Jones Very and Trumbull Stickney, Elinor Wylie and John Brooks Wheelwright. It’s a gathering, in part, of Bloom’s favorite forgotten poets, and his mantras in the book are “Now little regarded . . .” and “Now neglected . . .” He seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between “best” and “charming,” a category that would require a different book.
“Poe,” Bloom writes, “is a bad poet,” but since Poe “is also inescapable,” the anthologist “glumly” includes two poems, “Israfel” and “The City in the Sea.”
Bloom is fond of English odd balls like Thomas Love Beddoes and William Savage Landor – what, no George Crabbe?; of the sentimentalists of the flaming 1890s, a terrible decade for poetry, like Lionel Johnson and Ernest Dowson (“I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind”); and of the great purveyors of pungent nonsense Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, who, one admits, deserve a place in some pantheon.
commercialappeal.com | 4 April 2004

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