Thematic Guide to British Poetry

Thematic Guide to British Poetry

Thematic Guide to British Poetry

Thematic Guide to British Poetry

Synopsis

This thematic guide offers interpretations of 415 poems, representing the work of over 110 poets spanning seven centuries of British poetry. Educators teaching thematic units will find relevant essays appropriate for background presentation, discussion ideas, or student assignments. This book is clearly organized for easy access to information, whatever the users' individual purposes. The main section of the guide contains narrative essays on 29 alphabetically arranged themes that recur throughout the history of British poetry. Explications of individual poems are arranged chronologically to trace the evolution of a particular theme over time. Following each entry, the poems are listed with information about the anthologies where the works can be found. Additional suggested readings make this the perfect resource for research and classroom use, and as an indispensable tool for librarians assisting readers to identify poets, access their works, and better understand the thematic meanings of poetry.

Excerpt

Over the centuries, the British Isles has contributed a remarkable catalog of inventions and discoveries to human progress, but perhaps its most highly valued and enduring gift has been seven centuries of poetry. As the years roll on and the legacy of poems grows, how can we hope to find our way through such a vast wealth of verse, much of it as fresh, relevant, and compelling as it was when it was first composed? The purpose of this book is to offer a guide to students, teachers, librarians, and general readers who are interested in reading and studying poetry from the point of view of its subject matter, the essential question of what it is “about.”

Collections of poetry are often referred to as “treasuries,” “garlands,” or “gardens,” attesting to the intrinsic value of a literary form that illuminates human activity in surprising and often unforgettable ways. When we speak of a poem having a “theme,” we are referring to a poem that brings a particular human perspective to the subject matter. A poet can write an objective description of an event such as a wedding, or a natural creature such as a nightingale, but unless the poem expresses— overtly or subtly—the poet's attitude to the subject, the poem does not have a theme. Compare, for example, John Clare's poem “Mouse's Nest” (1835) with Robert Burns's poem “To a Mouse” (1785). Although both poems are included in this survey in the Nature section, only Burns's poem has a “theme” that can be readily identified. Both poets describe the overturning of a mouse's nest and the small creature's discomfort. But while Clare's poem is simply descriptive of the nest and its owner (he finds the mother mouse “grotesque” and alien from him, thus hinting at the theme of man's relationship to nature), Burns goes further in pondering this relationship. His exposing of the nest with his plow is an example of “man's dominion,” trampling thoughtlessly over the neat . . .

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