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Thread: Is there a 'greatest' poet?

  1. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Yeah, I noticed the same thing when I got my English degree. Apparently, my teachers only wanted to teach literature from the English language, and if I wanted to read books from Russia I was forced to take a Russian class. How rude!
    The impertinence of these teachers transcends the obstinacy with which poison-drenched cockroaches refuse to rendezvous with death.
    My hide hides the heart inside

  2. #47
    Registered User Jassy Melson's Avatar
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    I majored in English Literature in college at a small university, and many of the Russian writers were introduced into the courses I took. So maybe it all depends on what college you attend.
    Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist.

    Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. - Albert Einstein

  3. #48
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonywalt View Post
    Is there any room for modern poetry?-though, I know we have an affinity for the past on Litnet
    Modern as in post-Pound/Eliot modern or modern as in contemporary? As for the latter, one of the reasons you rarely see contemporary poets on such a list is that they haven't passed the test of time, which is so important in establishing ideas of "greatest" or even "among the greatest". As for the former, yes, I think there are a handful of modern poets that we could consider, including Eliot, Auden, Stevens, Ashbery, Merrill, and maybe a few others. I recently finished reading the entirety of Merrill's output and he certainly strikes me as being right up there with the best.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

  4. #49
    It is very hard to discern a critery for a ranking, but yes, very few poets have all that makes Shakespeare famous. His influence shows his works are very relevant. But he didn't wrote for all of us, so it is very natural and reasonable to understand there is something like our preference and sometimes it is not based on historical background. So, my advice, the competition is not for the best poet, but for a great poetry. And in this compettion, the guys from different ages, countries, etc, are helping each other and everyone is a winner.

  5. #50
    A User, but Registered! tonywalt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MorpheusSandman View Post
    Modern as in post-Pound/Eliot modern or modern as in contemporary? As for the latter, one of the reasons you rarely see contemporary poets on such a list is that they haven't passed the test of time, which is so important in establishing ideas of "greatest" or even "among the greatest". As for the former, yes, I think there are a handful of modern poets that we could consider, including Eliot, Auden, Stevens, Ashbery, Merrill, and maybe a few others. I recently finished reading the entirety of Merrill's output and he certainly strikes me as being right up there with the best.
    I too like those named modern poets, but the reason I don't get too involved with the poetry section (as much as I would like) is the presence of a heavy lean towards metering and yearning for Keats and Yeats (both great to be sure). I especially like Auden, but I find that not only do forum members not only think that the contemporaries have not passed the test of time - they tend to not like them. Period. I like Bukowski, Levine, Philip Larkin, Plath, Billy Collins, and for language perfection Derek Walcott - of the contemporaries and all in my opinion have passed the test of time. There is a certain 'school' on the forum who like to get into metering and all different kinds of stuff that intrigues me.

    I read mostly all contemporary poets, few are ever touched on here - except the occassional flogging of Bukowski and Collins (and free verse types)

  6. #51
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonywalt View Post
    I find that not only do forum members not only think that the contemporaries have not passed the test of time - they tend to not like them. Period.
    My experience is more that they haven't even read them as opposed to they don't like them. I've mentioned Ashbery countless times and I don't think anyone has ever taken up discussing him. Charles Darnay started a thread on Merrill a while back (here) to which I replied, but it died quickly since nobody else replied. It seems that the only people who've read modern poetry are other poets, poetry critics/academics, or the more extreme bibliophiles. It has no public audience, and is even little read amongst those that write poetry. I think Yeats and Keats get read so much because they're safe picks, firmly established in the canon, and they are (in general) easier to enjoy, digest, and appreciate. The uber-intellectualism and sophistication of modern poetry (the Pound/Eliot revolution, I mean) I think has permanently turned many, many people off to poetry whom now look at it as a cryptic, esoteric, jigsaw puzzle that only exists to give them a headache as opposed to pleasure. There are obvious exceptions to this, but, in general, the modern canon hasn't done much to dispel the stereotype (much as I love Merrill, Stevens, and Ashbery, there's no doubting they're difficult). I'm not a big fan of Bukowski or Collins, but I do quite like Larkin and Plath. I don't think I've read much Levine. While I'm one of those that likes to get into "metering," I'm also certainly willing to discuss non-metrical poetry.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

  7. #52
    A User, but Registered! tonywalt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MorpheusSandman View Post
    My experience is more that they haven't even read them as opposed to they don't like them. I've mentioned Ashbery countless times and I don't think anyone has ever taken up discussing him. Charles Darnay started a thread on Merrill a while back (here) to which I replied, but it died quickly since nobody else replied. It seems that the only people who've read modern poetry are other poets, poetry critics/academics, or the more extreme bibliophiles. It has no public audience, and is even little read amongst those that write poetry. I think Yeats and Keats get read so much because they're safe picks, firmly established in the canon, and they are (in general) easier to enjoy, digest, and appreciate. The uber-intellectualism and sophistication of modern poetry (the Pound/Eliot revolution, I mean) I think has permanently turned many, many people off to poetry whom now look at it as a cryptic, esoteric, jigsaw puzzle that only exists to give them a headache as opposed to pleasure. There are obvious exceptions to this, but, in general, the modern canon hasn't done much to dispel the stereotype (much as I love Merrill, Stevens, and Ashbery, there's no doubting they're difficult). I'm not a big fan of Bukowski or Collins, but I do quite like Larkin and Plath. I don't think I've read much Levine. While I'm one of those that likes to get into "metering," I'm also certainly willing to discuss non-metrical poetry.
    Exactly, you are a bit open minded to contemporary, but the ones you like are much more traditionalist. Ted Hughes on the other hand, because of his complexity and traditional style is popular on this forum- with his hawks and foxes. He is good though, and loved by all poets.

    The problem with having poetry that needs to be "savoured" and "read over and over to really understand"(paraphrasing stuff I see on this thread) and on and on, is that type of poetry is only read by other Poets(albeit amateur poets) and it's not accessible to non poets.

    Also, prose poetry is fairly unpopular style on here, even though it's the way alot of poetry is going as time marches on. I for one loathe heavily metaphored, headache producing poetry('hm, well it could mean this or mean that) - so let others savour it. The poetry I have published is mostly prose style with some formal structure - although i will borrrow some accessible metaphors that hughes or plath may have used. I would like to see poetry accessible and popular to all readers.

  8. #53
    Registered User Darcy88's Avatar
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    John Donne.
    “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

    - Kurt Vonnegut

  9. #54
    A User, but Registered! tonywalt's Avatar
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    Derek Walcott and Auden - Larkin too.

  10. #55
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonywalt View Post
    The problem with having poetry that needs to be "savoured" and "read over and over to really understand"(paraphrasing stuff I see on this thread) and on and on, is that type of poetry is only read by other Poets(albeit amateur poets) and it's not accessible to non poets... I for one loathe heavily metaphored, headache producing poetry('hm, well it could mean this or mean that) - so let others savour it...I would like to see poetry accessible and popular to all readers.
    I get what you're saying; I've been in many discussions (on this board and elsewhere) about the need/lack of need for poetry (and all arts) that is accessible to mass audiences. I've often reiterated in those conversations that I'm of two minds about the propositions; on the one hand, I think all art gains vitality when there is a push-pull between what is popular and what is elitist. Right now, there is that dynamic in film, with plenty of films made for popular audiences and plenty of films made for cinephiles, critics, and other filmmakers. I love and hate works on both sides of that divide. Right now in poetry, almost everything published is written for critics/academics and other poets with little mind to the masses. But, as one critic once said, the masses left poetry because poetry left the masses. One reason the romantics probably remain so popular is because they were really the last poets openly writing for popular audiences. Whatever poets of the 20th century that would've been accessible to the public probably lost their opportunity to access them through no fault of their own.

    On the other hand, I must admit that I probably love a lot of the type of poetry you hate; the stuff that needs to be savored, read repeatedly, that's heavily metaphorical and extremely open to interpretation. Lately I've been obsessed with Merrill's Lost in Translation which is definitely one that requires multiple readings and is open to interpretation (that link offers a whole page full of interpretations; I especially love Yenser's, whose whole book on Merrill is superb), but which I find to be one of the 5 or 10 greatest poems I've read in the century. What I love about these poems is that metamorphosis that can take place between a reader's first and last experience. On first experience, I may be extremely moved or provoked by certain passages, without understanding the full extent of their meaning, but then in later readings those passages (or others) will be illuminated in completely different ways by having digested more of its context and subtleties. As much as I love simple lyrics like, eg, the poems of Burns, or many of Larkin's, they tend to remain the same no matter how many times I read them. Perhaps the pleasure never wears off entirely, but it's only with those difficult poems that the experience itself can remain fresh because it keeps changing with multiple readings.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

  11. #56
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    It occurs to me I never gave a proper answer to this thread. My vote would be for Milton, and I'll copy/paste what I wrote elsewhere:

    1. John Milton - He wrote the greatest elegy in the language (Lycidas), the greatest pastoral (Lycidas again), one of the great odes (Morning of Christ's Nativity), a handful of the best sonnets (On His Blindness, Methought I Saw...), one of the greatest closet dramas (Samson Agonistes), one of the greatest short narratives (Paradise Regained), and the greatest epic (Paradise Lost). In doing so, he practically invented his own language that nobody that came after was able to imitate without coming off as "Miltonic". No other poet in English can claim to have covered as much range with an equal amount of success.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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