American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, Vol. 1 & 2

Edited by John Hollander
Both copyrighted 1993
Vol. 1 checked out 4 times in 17 years, last checked out 14 years ago
Vol. 2 checked out 7 times in 17 years, last checked out 2 years ago

These hefty tomes (800+ pgs of poetry in each) are reminiscent of textbooks for lit survey courses every English major must take in college. They are extremely comprehensive. That would seem a good thing except that most of the poetry written in 19th century America was nothing to hoot about, the exceptions being the stellar ones of Whitman and Dickinson. In American literature college courses, those two giants are typically the only poets touched on during that period. The fiction being produced was so much more noteworthy. Still, there’s no harm in having these volumes on the shelves. They have a lot of historical value and charm. Volume one contains Clement Moore’s “A Visit From Saint Nick” (a.k.a “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) and Francis Scott Key’s “Defense of Fort McHenry,” which became “The Star Spangled Banner.” Volume 2 includes a section on spirituals and folk songs, including “Oh My Darling Clementine” and “Sweet Betsey from Pike.” For people who love the sonnet form and rhyming couplets, plenty can be found in these two books. At the back of each volume are sections of literary chronology and bios of the poets, which are interesting reads in themselves. These books haven’t gotten very good circulation, but they are like poetry reference books so expectations for circulation expectations should be kept modest.

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About jppoetryreader

Poetry reviewer and poetry consultant for libraries
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