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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, necessary and surprisingly readable
This book has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years and I'm so glad I've finally got around to reading it! Starting with the 14th century, Schmidt tells not just the story of English poetry, but also the story of English as a vernacular language, a very poor cousin to Latin brought over by the Norman conquerors. With potted and eclectic biographies of the poets...
Published on 27 Sep 2006 by Roman Clodia

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Contrariwise..
For a book of this title the authorial voice is remarkably obtrusive, yet oddly muffled. 'Larkin begins to enjoy a polemical palisade'(?) In the latter third we are caught up in dispatches from the Poetry Wars. 'A taste for Murray, Larkin and Cope frees me from dogma'(!) - that voice again*. I confess I find it largely unreadable. So he likes Larkin? Are we meant to be...
Published on 19 Aug 2011 by Simon Barrett


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, necessary and surprisingly readable, 27 Sep 2006
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Lives Of The Poets (Paperback)
This book has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years and I'm so glad I've finally got around to reading it! Starting with the 14th century, Schmidt tells not just the story of English poetry, but also the story of English as a vernacular language, a very poor cousin to Latin brought over by the Norman conquerors. With potted and eclectic biographies of the poets themselves, he sweeps over their key works not as a literary critic or academic, but as a reader who engages emotionally (or not!) with their work. It is sometimes regarded as a little amateur in academia to talk about the lives of writers and for that reason alone this book would be a gem and a collector's item, but it is also a book for readers and lovers of poetry for its sheer pleasures, quite apart from its literary merits.

I wished Schmidt had started earlier and put anglo-saxon works such a Beowulf into the chronology, and he also bypasses the Arthurian romances, but that's a small criticism of a wonderful book.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Soap of Poetry, 12 Dec 2002
This review is from: The Lives Of The Poets (Paperback)
A wonderfully accessible yet polemical read, this book fills a niche of potted biography which nevertheless can relate the work back to the life.
Schmidt clearly knows his onions and his prose style is always exuberant, sustaining interest for the full 900+ pages. Probably, this text is meant to be read straight through as a novel bringing disparate strands of biiographical detail into one morphous whole.In particular the concept of suffering as the only condition for poetic creativity is a frequently recurring motif
There will always be debate about inclusion / and exclusion (Isn't there always with every anthology?) - my only quibble is the inordinate amount of space afforded to the most contemporary of writers compared to the dead white males who, despite their current politcally uncorrectness certainly seemed to have spicier lives than their still-breathing successors.
Rave on John Donne!
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference of poets from early ages to modern, 5 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Lives Of The Poets (Paperback)
Mr Schmidt has collected here varied essays regarding most of the main poets together with explanations of thought processes, emotions, and reasons. These three factors are sadly missing in other texts. The author gives us more than mere flavours, he enriches the development of poetry and specifically poetic forms through the masters. A casing point is Wordsworth, who could so easily have repeated the previous generations cycles of writing but boldly transformed the rhythmic verse prose approach to such an extent that in the begining Wordsworth was ridiculed. By the end of his life he was proudly Poet Laureate and the most favoured poet of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. There are so many other countless refers on other poets that require the reader to research deeper and that is the true quality of Mr Schmidt's work. The book has a tendancy to jump a little but this is unavoidable and acceptable. Mr Schmidt achieves a balance by bringing into focus references to Auden, Yeats, Amis, and Larkin, but at the same time does not damage any poets contained herein. His essays are honest, unpatronising, but occasionally surreal in delivery. A fine text and very recommendable.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Contrariwise.., 19 Aug 2011
By 
Simon Barrett "Il penseroso" (london, england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Lives Of The Poets (Paperback)
For a book of this title the authorial voice is remarkably obtrusive, yet oddly muffled. 'Larkin begins to enjoy a polemical palisade'(?) In the latter third we are caught up in dispatches from the Poetry Wars. 'A taste for Murray, Larkin and Cope frees me from dogma'(!) - that voice again*. I confess I find it largely unreadable. So he likes Larkin? Are we meant to be surprised or relieved? As for Wendy Cope, what's not to like - who doesn't like light verse as skilful as hers? - but to truncate her is absurd; I never heard tell of Parker, Nash or Milne. As for Murray (Sir Les the self-truncated), I see Schmidt's dilemma; it is no longer possible, or probably desirable, to leave out the Americans in a work of this kind, leaving it less fun and less marketable, so he needs a few colonials in the mix. He calls Canadian poetry 'a short street' to my everlasting relief but he can't bring himself to say the same of Australia; yet he omits New Zealand's leading poet (and longterm British resident) Fleur Adcock. But so many names are absent it should be called The Lives of SOME Poets - the most well-known English and American ones anyway (the Scots and the Irish get insultingly short shrift), the ones that already get loads written about them on the whole (you don't want to bother with the others, they're neglected for a reason (heh heh) and life's too short anyway, richtig?) It's emphatically NOT a History of English Poetry, still less of poetry in English (which would be impossible anyway) - it's 'poets wot I like', yet it manages to be both leaden and cursory; I think it's the 'Brief Notes' style. Read Kenneth Hopkins instead (English Poetry, 1962); 568 pages compared to Schmidt's 496 measlier ones (in the hardback), every rift laden with ore

*Imagine a 'Lives of the American Poets' where you had to take a 'position' on Collins or Olds, neither of whom is in, needless to say (indeed, imagine a 'Lives of the American Poets' with a sprinkling of 'world English' poets on top, including us!) This book will date, has dated, quicker'n Wendy could pen a rondeau redoublé
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it, 26 July 2009
This review is from: The Lives Of The Poets (Paperback)
Not many books make me grab a pencil and write notes in the margin, look up words I don't understand and hilight paragraphs that enlighten me.

After 174 pages I finally succumbed and got my pencil out. The criticism of Phillip Sidney's work on that page struck me with it's brilliance. Schmidt here (for me at least) gets to the heart of Sidney's work, offering an analysis of poetry itself that reaffirms (and indeed deepens) my love for the art form.

A biography, criticism and sampler of most of the English poets to date, I am certain this book will enlighten poetry enthusiasts and give you a fresh insight into poets you already know as well as an introduction to those you don't.

The only caveat I offer is for those who are attempting to gain an introduction to poetry by this volume: start with building an appreciation for the raw form first. Find out whose poetry you like without the burden of criticism and biography. That way you won't stumble at the first hurdle. Try a poetry collection first, such as The Nation's Favourite Poems. This will hopefully whet your appetite.

For those who loved this book I highly recommend the out-of-date but honestly written The Anatomy of Poetry by Marjorie Boulton, for help to appreciate the form and structure of poetry.
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