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September 1998 · 3 volumes
1,429 pages · 6"x9"
Notable Poets comprises biographical sketches and critical studies of 110 of the world's best-known poets from antiquity to the late twentieth century. This set is designed to survey the essential poets whose works comprise the core curriculum of high school and undergraduate poetry studies. The essays, selected from Critical Survey of Poetry: English Language Series, Revised Edition (1992) and Critical Survey of Poetry: Foreign Language Series (1984), have been updated with new material as well as with pertinent information culled from the Cyclopedia of World Authors (1997). More than two-thirds of the essays are illustrated with portraits of the poets.
Of the 110 articles in Notable Poets, 75 focus on English-language poets and 35 on foreign-language writers whose works are widely studied in translation. Together, they trace the development of poetry from ancient Greece, Rome, and China, through the great works of the Renaissance and the Romantic era, to the modernist, Beat, and confessional poets of the twentieth century.
The beginnings of poetry are lost in prehistory; poetic devices undoubtedly evolved before written language as ways of facilitating the memorization and oral repetition of historical records, legends, and myths. Included in Notable Poets are studies of the masterworks of early poets that have influenced the course of literature through the centuries. From the Greece of c. 800 b.c. come the works of Homer; from the sixth and seventh centuries b.c. come Pindar and Sappho; from Italy in the first century b.c. come Horace, Vergil, and Ovid. From eighth century China come Li Po and Tu Fu. Among the hundreds of poems or collections discussed are such old and new milestones in world literature as Homer's Odyssey, Vergil's Aeneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, Charles Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil, Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Roman Elegies, and Federico García Lorca's Gypsy Ballads.
Among the often-studied English-language poems included are such standard texts as Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, William Shakespeare's sonnets, John Milton's Paradise Lost, William Blake's "The Tiger," John Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," William Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death," and Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." Twentieth century poets and works include T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, William Butler Yeats's "The Second Coming," Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Ezra Pound's Cantos, William Carlos Williams's Paterson, Marianne Moore's "Poetry," Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," and Sylvia Plath's Ariel. Works are discussed in the context of the poet's life, times, and body of work.
Each essay provides essential information at its beginning: the poet's birth and death dates, a list of principal poetic works with publication dates, and an "Achievements" section that encapsulates the poet's central contribution and notes major honors and awards the poet has won. The major sections of the text follow: "Biography" provides a summary of the author's life, and "Analysis" is an in-depth look at the poet's work. This section examines a number of key works in the author's canon, points to the techniques and themes of primary interest to the poet, and describes how the poet's work evolved over time. The text concludes with "Other literary forms," briefly describing other genres in which the writer has worked. A categorized list, "Select works other than poetry," follows. Each essay concludes with a paragraph-style bibliography.
The three-volume set is arranged alphabetically. Four useful reference features are included at the end of volume 3: a glossary of poetical terms, a time line of the poets' birthdates, a geographical index, and a comprehensive index.