THE MONDAY BOOK: Legacy of a Poet Who Understood the Evolution of a Child's Mind ; 101 POEMS ABOUT CHILDHOOD Edited by Michael Donaghy FABER & FABER, Pounds 12.99 ORDER FOR Pounds 11.99 (FREE P&P) FROM 0870 079 8897
Glover, Michael, The Independent (London, England)
The poet Michael Donaghy died last year at the age of 50. The last time I heard him read, he possessed an almost childlike zestfulness and approachability. How appropriate, then, that one of the last projects he should have completed before his shockingly early death was this anthology of poetry about childhood. The subject rhymes fully with his character.
Childhood is not an easy subject for poets because, when they write, they often find it all too easy to behave like big kids themselves. In so doing, they not only make themselves look fools, they also vulgarise and trivialise the very idea of childhood. Donaghy recognises that, so in this book there is none of the rubbish so often published in anthologies aimed at the primary school market.
No: this anthology begins with Homer, rockets rapidly forward to the English 17th century, and ends in the present. The focus is not so much on so-called childish behaviour, but the way in which a child's mind works and develops. The book is strongest in the 17th and early-19th centuries. Marvell meditates, soberly and exquisitely, upon the beauty of childhood; Vaughan celebrates its enviable innocence. Traherne takes his praise a little too far " he sounds gluey and false when he celebrates the sinlessness of the child. …