Saturday, April 21, 2012

Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times

Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal TimesStaying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times by Neil Astley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first saw this anthology mentioned on, in the segment that I follow religiously where experts recommend five books on a particular topic.  I wanted to intentionally read poetry this month (National Poetry Month!).

There is a lot of great stuff here. The poems are divided by category, and the anthologist has done a great job in selection - poets are largely from the UK and USA, but there are also quite a few translated poems, even one from Gaelic! My only complaint would be that some of the poems are not included in their entirety, for instance he often chose some segments of longer poems. I think it would have been better to be more selective, and include the entirety of everything selected.

While some of the themes aren't my favorite (I tend to skim through nature-poems, child-poems, and death-poems), the organization of the anthology made it easy to enjoy.

I wish I could just copy everything I loved into this review, but it would simultaneously fill pages and violate copyright. I will include the titles of my favorites, and leave you to discover them for yourself, linking to them if I can find them online. A few of my favorites were already familiar to me, but I couldn't stand to leave them off my list.

One more thing - these are intended to be uplifting and life-affirming, but that shouldn't scare you away. They aren't sugar-coated or unrealistic, or even always upbeat. Just full of honesty.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (link is to video of Oliver reading)
Happiness by Raymond Carver (my favorite bit is the last stanza)
Entirely by Louis MacNeice
History by Maura Dooley (read by poet)
The Journey by Mary Oliver (fast forward to 1:10)
Yes by Muriel Rukeyser
And the Days are Not Full Enough by Ezra Pound
Last Night by Sharon Olds
In Defense of Adultery by Julia Copus
And They Were Both Right by Kapka Kassabova
Lightness by Meg Bateman
Inscription by Sophia de Mello Breyner
Places We Love by Ivan V. Lalic
Eating Poetry by Mark Strand (link is video of Strand reading)
Late Fragment by Raymond Carter

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