In his foreword to The Nation's Favourite Twentieth Century Poems
, Griff Rhys Jones writes that this book gathers together a comprehensive selection of the finest verse of the last hundred years. Indeed, this is a marvellous salute to the poetry of our times, from the dark, despairing days of war and the onset of the nuclear age, to a celebration of life land and everyday events.
Even the same subject can be seen from a quite different perspective. The end of the world may be at the heart of Yeats' "The Second Coming" and Roger McGough's "At Lunchtime", but, oh my, what a difference in approach!
This is an anthology for everyone who has ever appreciated a poem, from the connoisseur to those who may only vaguely recall a distant verse from long-forgotten studies. The collection is the result of a poll undertaken by The Bookworm in 1999 to find the nation's favourite modern poem. While there are few surprises in the nation's choice of favourite poets--Philip Larkin leads the vote with eight entries, closely followed by Sir John Betjeman with seven; Dylan Thomas with five and Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Roger McGough and WB Yeats with four apiece--the winning poem is certainly a surprise. Apparently even Jenny Joseph was taken aback by the nation¹s choice of "Warning", her wry rhyme on the freedoms of old age.
While there is some debate on the popularising of certain poems through modern media--films, advertisements, merchandising and so on--WH Auden has done particularly well from the big and small screen. "Stop All the Clocks" (fifth-favourite modern poem in the poll) was given a superlative rendering in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and who can have forgotten a certain rail company ad that made excellent use of "Night Mail"? If more people are brought to poetry via such means, who's to scoff?
However you have come to poetry, whether Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou or Benjamin Zephaniah appeal more than Walter de la Mare, TS Eliot or Rudyard Kipling, you'll find much here you¹ll want to read, again and again and again. --Carey Green
"However you have come to poetry, whether Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou or Benjamin Zephaniah appeal more than Walter de la Mare, TS Eliot or Rudyard Kipling, you'll find much here you¹ll want to read, again and again and again." (Carey Green)