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Best 20th century poet

 
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Who is the greatest 20th century poet?
Sylvia Plath
16%
 16%  [ 1 ]
Dylan Thomas
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
TS Eliot
50%
 50%  [ 3 ]
Benjamin Zephaniah
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Ted Hughes
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Ezra Pound
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Pablo Neruda
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Robert Frost
33%
 33%  [ 2 ]
Total Votes : 6

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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2993


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:04 am    Post subject: Best 20th century poet  Reply with quote

I saw a letter to the editor in one of our papers recently that said something like:  "TS Eliot - best 20th century poet?  Bah! Humbug!  That is the Welsh wonder, Dylan Thomas.

Now if I can make one of these polls work, I will try a list of 20th C poets for you to choose from.  May have problems deciding what IS a 20th century poet.

Cheers, Caro.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2993


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh dear, I pressed Submit instead of add option.  This should have had Rabindranath Tagore, WB Yeats and Other- please specify (probably you can't in the poll).

I suppose I could cancel the post and start again but that would be a bit like hard work.  And I might well press Submit too early again.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And, if we are to go beyond this list, I would choose as my favourite 20th century  poet Tagore (not surprisingly), and, of the poets writing in English, Yeats.


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Chibiabos83
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3434


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I voted for Eliot in this poll, but I think Larkin would probably be my first choice. I'm very fond of Neruda, and in the past have tried reading his poems in Spanish alongside an English translation, but I'm very handicapped by not speaking Spanish. It's not enough to know what most of the individual words mean, I can't read it as poetry in the original, just as words.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2993


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, that was silly - I forgot about Philip Larkin.  

Himadri, when did you read my comments and think, "Oh, shit"?  It was too late to respond last night, but I did read your first post!  I do know very little about poetry, and certainly about modern poetry.  Somehow though we did some 20th century poetry at university it was very little - TS Eliot, some Hardy (who I wouldn't think of as 20th century), but no Yeats, no Dylan Thomas, certainly no one like Tagore (who I didn't realise was 20th century and had assumed went way back in the past).

Pablo Nerudo is there because I have a poem of his that sits near my desk which I just love (in translation of course) and because I knew he won the Nobel Prize.  I did hunt up a list of poetry writers to win the Nobel Prize, but they included people like Rudyard Kipling and people I didn't know at all.  And I checked a list of American 20th century poets - none of them stood out for me except perhaps Ezra OPound, William Carlos Williams and e e cummings (or else I thought of them as novelists).

Are Sylvia Plath and Ted Husges not considered highly - I thought they both were?

Cheers, Caro.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Caro, I really did not realise until it was too late that the list was one you had compiled. It was my fault entirely: I did not read your post carefully enough. I had thought the list was one that had appeared somewhere in the media, and, under that mistaken impression, I went on to say a few things about it that were inappropriate. But once I realised that this is a list you had compiled for this board for a bit of fun, I realised how inappropriate my comments were: clearly, a list that appears in the media should ideally be deeply considered, whereas a list that appears on this board for a bit of fun is ... well, just a bit of fun! At any rate, I am embarrassed & sorry in equal measure that you saw that first post: it must have appeared very rude, and I deleted it as soon as I'd realised my mistake.

As for Plath and Hughes, yes, they are indeed highly rated, and rightly so, but all too often, they are given a prominence that is not given to poets of comparable stature, and I can only assume that this is due to their rather fraught personal lives, which appear to atttract greater attention than the actual quality of their work.

Hardy wrote mainly fiction up to the end of the century: he stopped writing fiction after Jude the Obscure, and devoted himself to poetry after that. Most of his finest poetry was written in the 20th century.

I did vote in his poll by the way - I voted for that well-known anagram of "toilets". But I haven't read anywhere near enough of Pound, and as for Neruda, one can't really judge poetry adequately from translations.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2993


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wasn't completely surprised to see that post had disappeared overnight, Himadri.  On the other hand it would have given us more to discuss, even if it was just the incompetency of my poetry education!

I've always thought I didn't like poetry much, but Michael's contributions and a few anthologies of my own have made me realise that is not really true.  I just don't read it much, and have thought it is too difficult and full of analogies and references that I find hard to understand without help (probably remembering TS Eliot!).  I don't want poetry to be nothing more than personal little nothings, but too dense a style requires more study and research than I am able to give.  (I did like John Donne, but on my own I don't think I would understand much of it at all, so full of allusion and historical ideas as it is.)

Cheers, Caro.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wasn't completely surprised to see that post had disappeared overnight, Himadri.  On the other hand it would have given us more to discuss, even if it was just the incompetency of my poetry education!

I've always thought I didn't like poetry much, but Michael's contributions and a few anthologies of my own have made me realise that is not really true.  I just don't read it much, and have thought it is too difficult and full of analogies and references that I find hard to understand without help (probably remembering TS Eliot!).  I don't want poetry to be nothing more than personal little nothings, but too dense a style requires more study and research than I am able to give.  (I did like John Donne, but on my own I don't think I would understand much of it at all, so full of allusion and historical ideas as it is.)



Hello Caro, I think most of us are under-educated when it comes to poetry, and I am not being falsely modest when I count myself amongst them. I have tried to pick up what I can, but my knowledge and understanding are sketchy at best, and there is much that goes over my head. Modernism, as ever, is particularly difficult.

The problem with polls on poetry is that it is so little read, and so little understood, that vox populi is even more meaning. To ask “Who do you think is the best poet?”[/i] is like asking ”Who do you think is the best molecular biologist?”

Poetry has become far too specialised an area. Now, I don’t expect everyone to appreciate poetry – any more than I’d expect everyone to appreciate string quartets or string theory - but I do wonder whether it need be such an exclusive club. As you say:

Quote:
I've always thought I didn't like poetry much, but Michael's contributions and a few anthologies of my own have made me realise that is not really true.  


The only way really to appreciate poetry is to talk about it. This board really should be ideal for doing so, but somehow, we don’t seem to get round to doing it. How about forming a sort of poetry club? You know – where instead of just putting up a poem, we also discuss it a bit, talk about what it is that makes it affecting, and open it up for general discussion.

When, recently, the BBC did a poll of “Best Poets” (a meaningless concept if ever there was one!) TS Eliot came first, and John Donne came second. Fine choices, certainly. But No 3 came Benjamin Zephaniah. And I’m sorry if this sounds snobbish, but my reaction was “Eh?” It really is like placing Rolf Harris in a list of great artists alongside the likes of Rembrandt and Velazquez. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Rolf Harris … years ago, I took the kids to a pantomime featuring Rolf, and he was brilliant in it … it’s just that putting him in a list of great artists alongside Rembrandt and Velazquez is plain daft. Similarly with placing Zephaniah alongside Eliot and Donne. Of course, it is snobbish to look down on something merely because it’s popular, but it seems to me similarly irrational to rate something highly for that same reason.

Looking back on my own education, most of the time we “did” the War Poets. The War poets are very popular in school, because what they were saying was essentially very simple, and, as a consequence, easy to teach. That doesn’t mean it’s bad poetry – far from it – but basing one’s acquaintance of poetry purely on the War Poets gives little idea of the sheer emotional complexity and the profound ambiguity that lies at the heart of so much of the finest poetry.

In my final year at school, I had a wonderful English teacher, an elderly Scottish spinster (OK – maybe she wasn’t that elderly, but when you’re a teenager, anyone over 40 is pretty elderly!) whom to this day I remember with great gratitude and affection. She was rather ambitious in her choice of texts: she was determined to study with us examples of the “best”, no matter how difficult it may be. I still remember in some detail her analysis of Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale”. Armed with what I had learnt in Miss McLeod’s class, I left school and went to university. I was studying physics, and had a passion for literature, and was determined to keep up my interest. But, after a while, I realised that I was reading only fiction, and that this wasn’t good enough. So I saved up my pennies (OK – I went without booze for a week!) and bought myself the New Oxford Book of English Verse, edited by Helen Gardner. This was about 33 years ago now, and I still have my battered copy. Virtually all my acquaintance with poetry was through this book. Much of it puzzled me (“Like a long-legged fly upon the stream, his mind moves in silence…” - What? “Sheer plod makes plough down sillion…” - Eh?) but over the years, they do enter your mind, and after a while you find that so much of it has become part of you! Of course, I pursued other works by other poets – Wordsworth, Yeats, etc. Some I have never quite come to terms with – Donne, for instance: I am ashamed to say this, but even a poet as prominent as Donne continues to puzzle me. But there are others who have given me some of the most wonderful experiences I have had from literature.

I think, inevitably, poetry of any quality has to it a density. The point of poetry is to communicate using all aspects of words – not merely the literal dictionary definition, but also its associations, its connotations, its sounds, its rhythms, how it relates to other words, the imagery with which it may be associated, the network of often complex imagery and associations that may be built up, and so on. In short, each word can serve many different functions. So density is inevitable. But as you say, poetry really should be more than “personal little nothings”. So, dense and complex though it may be – let’s just dive in! There’s no other way!

Sorry if I’ve been incoherent: I’ve got a stinking cold, and my head feels like … Well, you know that scene in Scorsese’s film Casino where they put this bloke’s head into a vice? I stayed at home today, but, cold or no cold, we have an important deadline to meet, so I was up to here with data analysis. I was hoping writing this post would help clear my head, but it hasn’t.


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3374


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sylvia Plath, although a fine poet, would never appear in my top ten.  She seems to me too exclusively inward looking and not universal or encompassing enough.  And I wonder, should a great poet also be an innovator?  Is poetry different because he or she wrote? That is decidedly true of Eliot.  Some one - I forget who - remarked that one of the requirements of literary genius is richness and  'abundance' of output.   Think of the richness and variety of Shakespeare and Dickens. The output of many modern poets seems costive and thin.  They lack ambition. Where are the modern poets producing poems like 'The Waste Land' and 'Four Quartets'? Or Byron's 'Don Juan'? Or Wordsworth's 'Prelude'? or Spenser's 'Faerie Queene'? or Pope's 'Dunciad' and 'The Rape of the Lock'? or Keats' 'The Eve of St Agnes'?



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