Zukofsky's arrangement is as clean in form as its criticism and the
good examples of poetry it offers. It is appraised correctly on the
jacket of the book by Clifton Fadiman, Mark Van Doren and William Carlos
Williams. Distilled excellence, rich portions from the poets from Homer
thru the present, some of these difficult -- poetry is not soft -- supported
by Zukofsky's precise interpretive remarks. "The lines of poetry
of great emotional significance in any age are rare. To obtain, therefore,
an accurate criticism of them and of the lesser work which surrounds
them, reading should not shun analysis." To read for pleasure,
that is the aim here. Poetry out of the "living processes"
of everyday and from there "to always another phase of existence"
-- the world needs it.
What makes certain lines of poetry good and others not so good? Part
II, the pivot for the entire book, begins so far as Zukofsky's remarks
are concerned: "A simple order of speech is an asset in poetry."
Next, in that section, regarding William Morris' roundabout translation
of Homer: "He is piling it on thin." And we're off. Parts
I and III offer more examples of good poetry, but without comment or
authors' signatures -- to add to the zest of a lovely game. A turn to
the chronological chart shows the full use of an index with titles,
authors, dates when supplemented by standards such as "content,"
"emotion," "inevitability," "measure."
A book for the general sensitive reader -- in classroom and out.
Zukofsky is moved, of course, by certain perceptions: the exact word;
any word a poetic word "if used in the right order, with the right
cadence, with a definite aim in view"; "song, one of the mainsprings
of poetry"; a poem: "an emotional object" close to the
people and their experiences, i.e., the source, something to put your
hands on as against metaphysical rockers; "in any age" . .
. "The lasting attraction in the words of a poem and its construction
make it classic and contemporary at the same time."
In this day of adding machines in bookshop windows, or comic greeting
cards, the surface tilt, the armed avoidance of quiet, of deep satisfaction,
this book is printed. The book could be bigger -- the reader can make
it so. Omissions -- at first glance -- until one realizes that it is
more than an anthology.