Raking Up the Century's Best Poetic Leaves

By Rubin, Merle | The Christian Science Monitor, April 13, 2000 | Go to article overview

Raking Up the Century's Best Poetic Leaves


Rubin, Merle, The Christian Science Monitor


AMERICAN POETRY: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Volume One: Henry Adams to Dorothy Parker 986 pp., $35

Volume Two: E.E. Cummings to May Swenson 1009 pp., $35 The Library of America

There are more poems in the world

Than empty beer bottles.

So many millions of poems have been written!

What happens to them all? Who reads them?

I remember so many I have loved at one time or another

and then lost somewhere along the way.

So writes Lindley Williams Hubbell, one of more than 200 poets represented in what are just the first two volumes of The Library of America's anthology of 20th-century American poetry. Not a household word himself, Hubbell (1901-1994), who "corresponded extensively with Gertrude Stein" and eventually settled in Japan, is just one of the many all-but-forgotten figures included, along with the usual famous suspects, in this sprawling collection.

Hubbell (an aficionado of Eastern philosophies) goes on to claim he would "gladly sacrifice" Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Wordsworth's "The Prelude" for no-longer-read classics like Sir Edwin Arnold's "The Light of Asia." But must we be forced to choose? Ideally, the truly inclusive democratic spirit would have room for all voices: no need to sacrifice one poet for another. But, alas, the time that even dedicated readers can spend reading is not infinite and, at some point, choice is inevitable.

Some people - ideologically misguided or perhaps just tone-deaf - resent the idea that one poet's work is better than another's. Yet even their opposites, elitist advocates of a poetic meritocracy, must find it disturbing that sometimes it is not merit, but the vagaries of fortune that determine whose work survives and whose disappears from sight. The most famous writers may not always be the best, but merely the best at publicizing themselves. Thus, although making choices is ultimately necessary, it is also important not to rush to judgment and to consider a wide field of candidates for one's canon.

Foremost among the many virtues of this anthology is its inclusiveness. Of course, the editors give more space to the poets who are the most esteemed at this point in time: high priests of Modernism like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Hilda Doolittle, William Carlos Williams, and the equally, perhaps more greatly, gifted poets who eschewed it, such as E.A. Robinson, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, and Robert Frost. There is, however, one rather astonishing omission: W.H. Auden. One can only suppose the editors deemed the British-born Auden insufficiently American, although he lived half his life in America, became a US citizen, and is reckoned an American by no less an authoritative source than "The Oxford Companion to American Literature."

In addition to acknowledged masters, we find once-popular poets whose stock has gone down, in some cases perhaps only temporarily: Vachel Lindsay, Carl Sandburg, Elinor Wylie, Sara Teasdale, Stephen Vincent Bent, to name a few. Here, too, are African-American poets, like Claude McKay, Angelina Grimk, Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, and Melvin B. Tolson.

There is even a sampling of songwriters, from blues and folk artists like Ma Rainey and Woody Guthrie to Tin Pan Alley greats like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, and Ira Gershwin. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Raking Up the Century's Best Poetic Leaves
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.