Monday, July 9, 2012

Where I’m Calling From: Six of the Best

I feel so totally out of step with mainstream British poetry at the moment that I thought it might be pertinent to list the modern poets I rate most highly. (Warning: They are all men* and only one of them is not American.) These are the poets I reach for at night before bed. And it fills me with pride and joy to know that I share a publisher with four of them.

1. Paul Celan

2. Charles Olson

3. George Oppen

4. Ezra Pound

5. Wallace Stevens

6. William Carlos Williams

* In my defence, a longer list would include Elizabeth Bishop, the magnificent Susan Howe, Sylvia Plath, Marianne Moore, and others.

Reading suggestions:

1. Paul Celan

Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, trans. John Felstiner (better than the Penguin Hamburger translation, and best read alongside Felstiner’s Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew)

2. Charles Olson

Carcanet publish A Charles Olson Reader (including his hugely important essay “Projective Verse”), plus get the Selected Poems edited by Robert Creeley. Two volumes of Collected Poems await the true convert.

3. George Oppen

Carcanet publish the New Collected Poems and seek out any recordings you can find -- if you haven’t heard Oppen read you won’t understand how his poems are phrased; but once that voice is in your head, you will never escape it.

4. Ezra Pound

The New Selected Poems and Translations for starters, then The Cantos. Also any recordings you can find. Pound is another poet whose voice is unmistakable and unforgettable.

5. Wallace Stevens

The Palm at the End of the Mind is a lovely selection of his poems, then on to the Collected Poems and Opus Posthumous and The Necessary Angel (prose). I actually prefer late Stevens (from, say, Transport to Summer onwards) to Harmonium.

6. William Carlos Williams

Carcanet publish a very fine two-volume Collected Poems. His essays are important too.

2 comments:

oliver dixon said...

Hi Ian,
I think we're on the same wave-length; all of these would figure among my favoured poetry-choices, though perhaps not in the same order.
I'd also add a few more poets not writing in English eg. Rimbaud, Montale, Neruda, Mandelstam, as well as a few English poets (Hill, Middleton, Roy Fisher).
By the way I've written something about Constellations on my blog (oliverdixon1.blogspot.com). Hats off for such a compelling volume and for being so admirably 'out of key with (your) time'.
Oliver

Ian Pindar said...

Hi Oliver,
I have only just read your review -- thank you very much for your kind comments. It really is the perfect assessment of my situation. It is a lonely business being out of key. I wish there were more like you ...
All best wishes,
Ian