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“Nationals October 2019

The Best Poetry Books of the Last Century

| July 29, 2021, 06:00 PM

The pandemic forced people to embrace indoor entertainment. Where before one could travel and go to parties to beat boredom, this time, people were confined to their homes and forced to go back to things they enjoyed before they discovered the charming outdoors. A poetry book here, thriller novels there, and some good ol’ Netflix kept lots of people sane. Poem lovers rediscovered 20th-century literature, where poets poured their hearts out, taking years to finish a book or poem that would leave readers totally captivated.

Students have started taking poetry more seriously over the last few years following the discussions that have been taking place online. Now, you will easily find essays about poetry online written by students taking poetry in class or reading classics from Maria Rilke and others. Classical poetry is timeless and so deeply thought-out that students notice an improvement in their creativity when they write essays about poetry.

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Here are some of the best poems and poetry books from writers of classical poetry.

Duino Elegies – Rainer Maria Rilke

Imagine starting something and not being able to finish it for a decade? That was Rainer Maria Rilke with the book that started with a simple line. When the author stayed at Duino Castle, on a rocky part of the Adriatic Sea near Trieste, he walked down to where the rocks met the sea and waves broke sharply, probably to relax his mind. He heard a voice with words that played in his mind for a while. “Wer, wenn ich schriee, horte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen? (If I cried out, who would hear me up there, among the angelic orders?)” Those were the first words he wrote of a Duino Elegy that Rilke would work on for ten years.

Those years of sweat and effort paid off when he finally published this masterpiece that has remained quite revered in poetry. In the words of David Young, the book’s translator, Rilke, in his book, tried “to use our self-consciousness to some advantage: to transcend, through art and the imagination, our self-deception and our fear.”

The Waste Land – T. S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot wrote what is said to be one of the most important poems of the 20th century. The Waste Land was published in 1922, and it has been read by students at college over the years. Part of what makes it one of the best poetry books is that it combines parts of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King into some sort of collaboration that fans of Shakespeare seem to appreciate. There are prophecies, satire, the abrupt change of voice and locations, and lots of other things that make this poem quite unpredictable. As is with all great literature, it is not the easiest read. Many students read essay examples on his poetry to understand the words of this great poet.

This poem consists of four parts. “The Burial of the Dead” is about disillusionment and despair, “A Game of Chess” introduces alternative narrations, while “The Fire Sermon” brings about themes we see in western religion. Here is where the author introduces philosophical meditation. The fourth and fifth sections, “Death by Water” and “What the Thunder Said”, conclude this writing with a bang. Judgment is nigh.

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The 20th Century in Poetry – Various Authors

If you would rather read all your favorite 20th-century writers under one collection, this book that was published in 2013 is a treasure.  It contains the most prolific authors of that century, each with one of their best-loved poems. Here you have poems from Noel Coward, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Penn Warren, Robert Frost, G. K. Chesterton, Ezra Pound, Philip Larkin, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Langston Hughes, Ted Hughes, Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, E. E. Cummings, Rudyard Kipling,  Kingsley Amis, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Frank O’Hara, Sylvia Plath, John Updike, Robert, William Carlos Williams,  and others. It is such a rich collection of work done by some of the best classic poets.

Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman

Whitman spent several years revising this poetry book, and so by now, there have been at least four editions. In the book, the subject is the author, who clearly idolizes himself. Said to be the ideal “do-it-yourself” project, Whitman perfected the original copy over 6 or 7 years. He also wrote about sexual pleasure which at the time – late 1800s – was frowned upon by many. Thus, the book was considered quite controversial.

Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy – Thomas Hardy

The collections in this book were written between 1898 and 1928, and they are the best from a classical poet who immortalized the site of his birth—Egdon Heath, England. Hardy was a novel writer who went against the norm for his publications. He later gave up fiction and started his collection of poems that have been used as useful literature when teaching philosophy.

So Much to Learn

There is so much inspiration to be gained from these classical poems. Most of them are quite hard to understand at first, but the more you read – the more you get the symbolism that many authors use or you can interpret these poems as you see them to find some new meanings. If you are a lover of poetry who is yet to read from these authors, you may want to check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Local News, NEWS

About the Author - Stephanie Maris

Stefanie is a local blogger and social media content marketer from Maryland and most recently a wife and a mother. She has an unhealthy obsession with puns, sarcasm and caffeinated beverages.

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