The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson contains a sizeable sample of the total works of the reclusive poet, who only came to prominence after her death. Containing 593 poems separated into five different themes, roughly a third of her overall productivity, this collection gives the reader a wonderful look into the talent of a woman who hid her art not only from the world but also her own family. Besides nearly 600 poems of Dickinson’s work, the reader is given a 25 page introduction to the poet and an analysis of her work by Dr. Rachel Wetzsteon who helps reveal the mysterious artist as best as she can and help the reader understand her work better. Although neither Wetzsteon’s introduction and analysis nor Dickinson’s work is wanting, the fact that this collection gives only a sample of the poet’s work is its main and only flaw.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The first three published poetic volumes of T.S. Eliot career were a sudden surprise upon the literary community, but it was the third that became a centerpiece of modernist poetry. Published within a 5 year period during which not only Eliot’s style was refined but also influenced by his personal life and health. Throughout the rest of his career, Eliot would build upon and around these works that would eventually lead to the Noble Prize in Literature and a prominent place in today’s literature classes.
While I am right now in no way ready to critique Eliot’s work, I will do so in the volume it was presented in. While the publishers and editors wanted to present Eliot’s work with his personal Notes or footnotes in the back of the book to preserve the author’s intention of presentation, over the course of reading the exercise of going from the front of the book to the back to understand the footnotes became tiresome. And while reading “The Waste Land” I had three places marked in my book so as to read the poem and then look at Eliot’s own Notes and the publisher’s footnotes, which quickly became a trial.
This is a book I’m going to have to re-read over and over again for years to come to truly appreciate Eliot’s work. If you’re a better rounded literary individual than I am then this volume will probably be for you as it presents Eliot’s work in the forefront with no intruding footnotes at the bottom of the page; however if you are a reader like myself who wants to enjoy Eliot but needs the help of footnotes I suggest getting another volume in which footnotes are closer to the text they amply.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The Poetry of Robert Frost is the entirety of the great American poet’s published work, an authoritative volume that is structured to show his progression from his earliest work to his last—with a little exception at the end. However for those who have only read Frost in school, like me, you will be in for a surprise because the poems in English and/or Literature class are a deceptive selection of his complete works. While this complete book of Robert Frost’s work is wonderful for poetry enthusiasts, for the more general reader I would suggest you look through this volume and decide if you want a smaller, more select volume of his work.
A Lover’s Complaint by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Although in the same metre and structure as The Rape of Lucrece, this poem both shorter and more compact in it’s plot. A Lover’s Complaint is the story of a young woman who is wooed, seduced, and then abandoned by a lover while lamenting the fact that she’d fall for his charms again if given the chance. The short length of the poem while also having a compact plot makes this a better product by Shakespeare, though the quality is not with his other poetry.
Sonnets by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The 154 sonnets by Shakespeare are the height of his poetic effort. The use of language to keep the rhyming so crisp and at such a high level is masterful. To single out one poem as the best would be impossible given the complexity and subject matter that many of them have. But for me personally, the “Dark Lady” sequence was the best.
The Phoenix and the Turtle by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This Shakespearean poem, although short in length, is full of potential meaning. The most obvious meaning is the death of ideals embodied by the two birds, however through symbolism the mean could take on religious overtones or even by the embodiment of humans. Of course Shakespeare could have just written a poem following an ABBA rhyme that transitions to a ABA rhyme that appears to have a meaning but in fact as no meaning at all. In any case, it is a wonderful poem.