ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Great Old Poetry Anthologies

Updated on November 24, 2012

Reviewing all the books of poetry on the shelves of one's local library is one way of getting perspective on the history of poetry. It's also a way to find old gems that may no longer be of interest to the average patron but may be of interest to a lover of poetry or a lover of poetry of a given period. I've found three to date, all of them anthologies, and decided it's time to share my finds.

The most recent is the 1950 edition of The Oxford Book of American Verse, edited by F.O. Matthiessen. What made me want to jump up and shout was Matthiessen's declaration in his introduction that he would not neglect longer works simply because they were long. Many wonderful long works have become hidden because of the tendency to exclude them from anthologies. So in this book we have Whittier's "Snowbound," Whitman's "Song of Myself," Robert Penn Warren's "The Ballad of Billie Potts," and others that are many or several pages long. It's so refreshing to see a selection of T.S. Eliot the does not include "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" but does include "The Wasteland" in its entirety.

Matthiessen also states that he decided to err on the side of more examples of each poet rather than including as many poets as possible. His aim is to show the scope of a poet's work. Hooray! again. So we are given 120 pages of Whitman in this 1106 page anthology, and 46 pages of Stevens (25 poems) and Frost (40 poems). E.E. Cummings is represented by 25 poems. And our editor still managed to include 51 poets in all. Of course, I'm still not completely satisfied, feeling he has shorted Emily Dickinson and William Carlos Williams. But that is an editor's prerogative.

At the time this anthology was compiled almost half of the poets in it were still alive, nearly everyone forward of Robert Frost. This is one of the things I like about old anthologies. They are historical for me but they weren't (or only in part) for the editors compiling them. So we get to see what was considered worthwhile--and what we may also consider worthwhile--at that time, before whoever does the sorting sorts them, granting canon status to some and the wayside to others. In this case, we have ample selections of Edgar Lee Masters, Carl Sandburg, John Crow Ransom, Conrad Aiken, and Archibald MacLeish. And there are names completely unfamiliar to me as well: John Very, Trumbull Stickney and others.

Poems for Modern Youth is another musty anthology that I've fallen in love with. It was put together in 1938 and there is nothing modern about it (in the sense of the modern period of art full of challenges to convention). Although I'm a lover of truly modern, experimental and/or profound, serious, literarily sophisticated poetry, I'm also all for fun poetry, spooky poetry, poetry that tells a good story, or moves one with a sense of adventure. This book is full of the latter, though it also offers the former since the two aren't mutually exclusive. Overall, I found it delightful and intend to purchase a copy of my own.

Another anthology I found curious was one of protest poetry titled The Writing on the Wall. This book has 180 poems by poets, both unknown and well known, in response to the political and social scene of the 1960s (it was published in 1969), but it also looks back through American history. It includes poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ezra Pound, Kenneth Rexroth, Ishmael Reed, Langston Hughes, Hayden Carruth, Denise Levertov, Leroi Jones, David Ignatow, and the list could go on. It's a book to give a radical or proponent of justice renewed vigor and to give anyone perspective.

For those of you who love poetry or poetry of a specific period, check out your local library. Take a look at those old out-dated books. You may find some that will rouse you and send you hunting for an old copy of your own.

Some excellent current poetry anthologies

Currently available books by some of the poets mentioned above


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Jen Pearson profile imageAUTHOR

      Jen Pearson 

      6 years ago from Alabama

      Thanks for reading and commenting, jhamann. I also have an addiction to used bookstores (or thrift stores that include books). Purchases from them do pile up quickly!

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      6 years ago from Reno NV

      You have mentioned some excellent Anthologies, Poets, and Poems. I love the library and have spent many a good hour or two. My addiction was used bookstores, and now my collection is kind of intense and hard to move. Thank you for your hub, Jamie.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)