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A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry [Paperback]

Czeslaw Milosz
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 1998
A collection of the world's greatest poetry from the past two thousand years brings together five hundred works by more than two hundred poets, along with commentary by the editor.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (1 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156005743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156005746
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 509,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Epiphany is an unveiling of reality. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Desert Island Reading 18 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is by far my favourite poetry anthology. The selection comes predominantly from ancient Chinese and 20th century poets (so most are quite short, and in naturalistic language), and encompasses a wide range of subjects and styles. I come back to it over and over, and always find something new. The short commentaries are insightful and easy to read, and the layout of each poem allows plenty of white space on the page (which I believe to be very important when reading poetry). If I were cast away on a desert island and were allowed to have just the one book with me - this would be it. Buy and enjoy!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
A brilliant collection of poems by scores of poets from various countries and various eras. A book that will be well-thumbed by the peripatetic reader who moves from form to form, and from image to image. Milosz's commentary is also poetic. Sometimes he simply provides facts about a poem or a poet, but usually he frames the poem, as if hanging a border to concentrate the qualities of each poem in the reader's eye.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eclectic selection to warm & enlighten 25 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I picked this book up in 'City Lights' in San Francisco and instantly fell in love with it. What a selection. For once, an anthology where I don't already have the poems! There is poetry in translation, poetry by modern writers, poetry from the early centuries, poetry familar, poetry unfamilar yet instantly adored. Each selection comes with a brief explanation, giving those new to poetry a way in, yet each selection is also a deeply felt and original choice. The only possible criticism could be with the world-view the editor projects, but I will be giving this book to several friends this Christmas.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PRETTY GOOD 14 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I thought that this book had some very good poems. Yet, as reading through the ENTIRE book, many of the selected pieces were rather dull. Overall though, it was an enjoyable book of many different types of poetry.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An anthology of epiphanies 31 Dec 2004
By Boris Bangemann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
To call this excellent collection of poems an "international" anthology is a bit presumptuous. The bulk of the poems were written by poets whose native language is American (88), Chinese (53), Polish (35) or French (16). The selection, however, aptly reflects the geographical stations in the life of the Nobel Prize winner of 1980, Czeslaw Milosz. Born in 1911, he lived in Poland until 1951 when he emigrated to France. In 1960, invited by the University of California, he moved to Berkeley where he lived and worked until his death in August 2004. During the Second World War he lived in Warsaw, writing for the underground presses - which probably explains why only one German poem (by Rilke) appears in this book. To put this in perspective: poetry in German ranks on the same level as Inuit poetry here, one poem each.

But never mind. After swallowing my national cultural pride, I admit that "A Book of Luminous Things" is my favorite anthology of poetry. By a wide margin. Milosz did not simply compile a "best of" collection; he created a very personal, intimate book. The poems collected in this anthology are as much about the joy of living as they are about the awareness that old age may bring. What they teach are attention to the particular and appreciation of the transitory. Milosz's proposition for the collection was to present poems, "whether contemporary or a thousand years old, that are, with few exceptions, short, clear, readable and, to use a compromised term, realist, that is, loyal toward reality and attempting to describe it as concisely as possible. Thus they undermine the widely held opinion that poetry is a misty domain eluding understanding."

Milosz titled the last chapter of his anthology "History." At first, I found it a strange choice to conclude such a personal book with a chapter of poems that for the most part deal with the inhuman crimes perpetrated in the 20th century. A strange choice in particular because the preceding chapter titled "Non-attachment" would have given the book a final note of calm and serenity. Eventually, however, I considered the last chapter quite appropriate for a poet like Milosz who was committed to realism and political activism. As much as Milosz may have admired the attitude of non-attachment - illustrated with ultimate skill by the Chinese poets in this anthology - the formative experience of his life were the unspeakable deeds of cruelty committed by Germans in his home country.

A Book of Luminous Things begins with a very short chapter titled "Epiphany." Epiphany, Milosz explains, is an unveiling of reality. What in Greek was called 'epiphaneia' meant the appearance, the arrival, of a divinity among mortals or its recognition under a familiar shape of man or woman. Epiphany thus interrupts the everyday flow of time and enters as one privileged moment when we intuitively grasp a deeper, more essential reality hidden in things or persons. This definition of epiphany informs Milosz's understanding of realism. It is in fact an understanding that goes back to Heraclitus in European intellectual history and to Chuang Tzu in Chinese intellectual history - although admittedly the poems in this anthology are more easily accessible than most of the fragments of Heraclitus and Chuang Tzu.

It is difficult to praise this book highly enough. Indirectly, surreptitiously it is a wonderful portrait of the old Czeslaw Milosz who was in his mid-eighties when he compiled it. It is also an intimate guided tour through poetry, with introductions to every chapter and short, illuminating comments on almost every poem. It is full of unexpected discoveries, especially when it comes to some contemporary female poets like Wislawa Szymborska (1923- ; Nobel Prize for Literature 1996), Denise Levertov (1923-1997), and Anna Swir (1909-1984). And finally, A Book of Luminous Things is one of the most impressive and inspiring documents of the plentiful harvest that can come with experience and age:

THE GREATEST LOVE (by Anna Swir)

She is sixty. She lives

the greatest love of her life.

She walks arm-in-arm with her dear one,

her hair streams in the wind.

Her dear one says:

"You have hair like pearls."

Her children say:

"Old fool."
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant collection for the peripatetic reader of poetry 29 Dec 1996
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A brilliant collection of poems by scores of poets from various countries and various eras. A book that will be well-thumbed by the peripatetic reader who moves from form to form, and from image to image. Milosz's commentary is also poetic. Sometimes he simply provides facts about a poem or a poet, but usually he frames the poem, as if hanging a border to concentrate the qualities of each poem in the reader's eye
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Keep This in My Glovebox 25 Nov 2003
By Crazy Mel W - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have ordered this book for my college English classes for the past four years. Each time I browse through it I find something new, something valuable. I do indeed keep a copy in my car's glovebox. I pull it out if I find myself stuck somewhere and I read a poem or two.
The selections are indeed eclectic and span the globe. They are loosely arranged by theme and my international students assure me that the translations are good and truly reflect the spirit of the originals.
I recommend this highly to people who love poetry and to those who think they might someday at least like it.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An expertly selected volume 12 April 2001
By Kurtis R Scaletta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've never seen an anthology that is such an act of beauty in itself.
The selection of poems and commentary support a beautiful range of poems that are fresh & vital, brief & accessible. I can imagine this used to turn people on to poetry, as these poems always hit a nerve and are never obscure or bland. It is not comprehensive in a sense of poetic history, but it serves well as a collection for inspiration & meditation which will neither daunt the person new to poetry or insult the intellect of the scholar.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sublime Anthology 9 Dec 2001
By Flounder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The poetry in this diverse volume lives up to the lofty title on the book cover. Indeed, the poetry therein is luminous. From Haiku and dead moths to drangonfly wings and Jeffers' hurt hawks, this anthology is great for any ocassion. I discovered it while traveling, and it proved a lovely travel companion. It made the trip especially memorable and much more endurable, in that the poetry unceasingly provided me opportunity to reflect on the human condition and elemental themes. The more interesting aspect of this anthology happens to accord with the editor's own writing philosophy--which focuses on celebrating the ordinary--to demonstrate that the world is imbued with poetic spirit in simple facts--simple happenings that may easily be overlooked by the distracted passerby. I recommend this volume to anyone, esp. the contributions of Herbert, Hass, Milosz, Jeffers, and Szymborska.
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