The Nation's Favourite Poems
, reprinted many times over since it was first published by BBC Worldwide Books in 1996, is an uplifting and inspiringly varied collection of great poems.The late, lamented Auberon Waugh called it "the best popular anthology ever printed in Britain."
Poetry anthologies abound, in infinite variety. Themed volumes range in usefulness, from time to place, to subject. But aside from containing the odd classic and a few modern masterpieces, the remainder is often there because it fits the description and not necessarily because it is great poetry. How wonderful then to read a poetry anthology where every poem, without exception, is worth reading and, more importantly with poetry, worth keeping on your bookshelves to read again and again.
The book is based on the result of a poll conducted in 1995 by The Bookworm, to coincide with National Poetry Day. And an eclectic collection it is, with the heavyweights, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Marvell and Wordsworth, rubbing shoulders with their latter-day counterparts, Larkin, Hughes, Heaney and McGough. Romantics are well served with Yeats, Keats, Tennyson and Shelley. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee" is here, as is Christina Rossetti¹s "Remember." The Great British Public shows its lighter side, with "The Owl and the Pussycat," "Jabberwocky," "Macavity: the Mystery Cat" and children's favourite, Allan Ahlberg's "Please Mrs Butler." But it commemorates the horrors of the century too, with the war poets, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke.
And the Nation's Favourite? Well, as this is no novel with a surprise ending to give away, Rudyard Kipling's "If" received twice as many votes as the runner-up, Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott." There are 98 other poems to savour here, so if Kipling's not your style, try Stevie Smith or Jenny Joseph.
At any price, this is a must-have poetry anthology. Buy a copy for everyone you know with a birthday this year. And don't forget yourself!--Carey Green