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Selected Poetry (Poetry Library)

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John Donne is very much a poet for our time. Although his reputation has suffered periodic eclipses, it has increased steadily since the publication in 1633 of POEMS BY J.D. WITH ELEGIES ON THE AUTHOR'S DEATH. This century, however, has been remarkable for the broadening and deepening of interest in his work. A poet of love and friendship, Donne also John Donne is very much a poet for our time. Although his reputation has suffered periodic eclipses, it has increased steadily since the publication in 1633 of POEMS BY J.D. WITH ELEGIES ON THE AUTHOR'S DEATH. This century, however, has been remarkable for the broadening and deepening of interest in his work. A poet of love and friendship, Donne also employed dialectic, monologue and psychological analysis to wrestle with his religious, philosophic and personal doubts and with 'the wearisome condition of humanity' in a world that appeared as puzzling and riven as ours does today. From his early Songs and Sonets, Elegies, Ephithalamions and Satyres to Verse Letters, Anniversaries, Epicedes, Obsequies and Divine Poems, Donne's extraordinary, rich, complex and demanding poetry expresses, as John Hayward comments in his introduction, 'for us our hopes and fears of an analogoous human condition'.


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John Donne is very much a poet for our time. Although his reputation has suffered periodic eclipses, it has increased steadily since the publication in 1633 of POEMS BY J.D. WITH ELEGIES ON THE AUTHOR'S DEATH. This century, however, has been remarkable for the broadening and deepening of interest in his work. A poet of love and friendship, Donne also John Donne is very much a poet for our time. Although his reputation has suffered periodic eclipses, it has increased steadily since the publication in 1633 of POEMS BY J.D. WITH ELEGIES ON THE AUTHOR'S DEATH. This century, however, has been remarkable for the broadening and deepening of interest in his work. A poet of love and friendship, Donne also employed dialectic, monologue and psychological analysis to wrestle with his religious, philosophic and personal doubts and with 'the wearisome condition of humanity' in a world that appeared as puzzling and riven as ours does today. From his early Songs and Sonets, Elegies, Ephithalamions and Satyres to Verse Letters, Anniversaries, Epicedes, Obsequies and Divine Poems, Donne's extraordinary, rich, complex and demanding poetry expresses, as John Hayward comments in his introduction, 'for us our hopes and fears of an analogoous human condition'.

30 review for Selected Poetry (Poetry Library)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sparrow

    A goddam kingly poet, rather unknown in his lifetime, who perhaps invented the avant-garde, in English? His mind has coral-like involutions (you can see it even in his TITLES: "Nature's Lay Idiot", "Upon Mr. Thomas Coryate's Crudities"). Why doesn't everyone read him now? He was the Frank Zappa of the early 17th century. (Somehow, you feel that you're reading him IN COLOR, when most poets are in black-and-white.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tori

    not four stars as in 'sure it was fine, three seems harsh' but four stars as in 'some of this stuff is genuinely brilliant, but not quite all of it'

  3. 5 out of 5

    Frankie

    My earliest memory of Donne is "Death Be Not Proud" and 10th grade stanza and personification lessons in a Christian school that exemplified his simplest work. Donne wit and medievalism was always embraced by my Christian educators, who harkened fondly back to the stark moral contrasts of the morality-play/inquisition era. They raised Donne up next to Milton, Bunyan and other Johns of letters sanctioned by the Church-State, not to mention his healthy bit of luck being male, white and born into t My earliest memory of Donne is "Death Be Not Proud" and 10th grade stanza and personification lessons in a Christian school that exemplified his simplest work. Donne wit and medievalism was always embraced by my Christian educators, who harkened fondly back to the stark moral contrasts of the morality-play/inquisition era. They raised Donne up next to Milton, Bunyan and other Johns of letters sanctioned by the Church-State, not to mention his healthy bit of luck being male, white and born into the upper class. Who knows what classics we'll never read, written by the supposed inferior populations of the past? But anyway, we have Donne. For me, his sonnets – even the frenetic ones – mostly conjure Renaissance-fair-esque courtly cheesiness - plucking psalteries and dulcimers and tinny recitations of sing-song nausea. Aside from the misogynist vibe and the blatant Protestant vs Catholic scramble, Donne has interesting albeit crude ideas. One poem my schoolmarms never discussed in class is "The Flea." Taking a Sadean theme, Donne subtly conjures bestiality, the exchange of fluids, bloodletting, sacrificial rites, vampyric occult, etc. or maybe those are just the misperceptions of my guttered mind. At its most innocent, it evokes the crucifixion metaphor and marriage. In either case, it's a strange and fascinating piece of "metaphysical conceit" as they say. I'd say his best works are his elegies. It's difficult to be critical of flowery verse when it's as final and honorific as an epitaph in stone. "The Second Anniversary" is the most beautiful elegy of any written in metered verse. Also "Elegie XVI - On His Mistress" is a lovely work, and a rare break from his sexist/chivalric theme. My favorite of all his work is "The Triple Fool." This is a modest but clever look at the mirroring effect of readership. Overall, much of the verse is clever and capable of deeper interpretations than a first read can reveal. However apt and even ahead of his time Donne's work seems, it still fails in many ways to remain readable. The stilted meter, forced rhyme, the extreme bias and heavily censored content, all make me wary of spending more time with Donne than this work has given me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    In Grinnell College's freshman humanities course we were assigned a great deal of reading by a rather eccentric, old-school English professor, Maurice Lieberman. He had not adjusted to the sixties generation and likely never did, regarding us with considerable disdain and suspicion while he tried to teach his course the way he always had. The class met thrice weekly, in the afternoons just after the Star Trek reruns were over on "The Floppy Show", with new reading assignments for each In Grinnell College's freshman humanities course we were assigned a great deal of reading by a rather eccentric, old-school English professor, Maurice Lieberman. He had not adjusted to the sixties generation and likely never did, regarding us with considerable disdain and suspicion while he tried to teach his course the way he always had. The class met thrice weekly, in the afternoons just after the Star Trek reruns were over on "The Floppy Show", with new reading assignments for each. One spring Wednesday or Friday we were expected to have finished the love poems of John Donne. As ever, pressed for time, I had read them all silently--not the way to handle poetry. Opening the class, Lieberman asked what we thought of the sonnets. No one spoke. Avoiding his gaze, I recall the sun pouring through the windows of our Alumni Recitation Hall classroom building. It was truly a beautiful day. He asked again, more heatedly. Silence. God, I hoped he wouldn't call on me. As it happened, he didn't call on anyone. Instead, he launched into a tirade. "I assigned Donne and these poems particularly because they are about the one subject you seem to care about: Sex!" he said, now shouting. I blushed as I always did when sex was mentioned in those virginal days. God, dear God, don't let him call on me, I prayed . . . He didn't call on anyone. Instead, he dismissed the class. And, yes, Donne does write, rather explicitly and very well, about sex.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Becker

    It's John Donne- I think that says it all.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Francisca

    *2.5* at uni, i studied donne because of his metaphysical poems (with the conceits and everything) but here i thought his elegies were the best part of the selection.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stella Marie

    i skipped a couple of pages. some of it was really great, some of it made me drowsy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    I liked these poems. They were written a long time ago and the English is a little tricky to read but you soon get used to the old’s cool English spellings. I have to admit that the majority of the poetry I didn’t have a clue about but the lines I did understand were very moving. Here are some of my favourite bits: • “ 'Tis much that glass should be As all-confessing, and through-shine as I ; 'Tis more that it shows thee to thee, And clear reflects thee to thine eye.< I liked these poems. They were written a long time ago and the English is a little tricky to read but you soon get used to the old’s cool English spellings. I have to admit that the majority of the poetry I didn’t have a clue about but the lines I did understand were very moving. Here are some of my favourite bits: • “ 'Tis much that glass should be As all-confessing, and through-shine as I ; 'Tis more that it shows thee to thee, And clear reflects thee to thine eye. But all such rules love's magic can undo ; Here you see me, and I am you.” I am you > I love you – • “ ’tis true, then learne how false, feares bee” – so true and how beautifully summed up in one line – how false almost all of our fears are – almost all. • As our blood labours to beget Spirits, as like soules as it can, Because such fingers need to knit That subtle knot, which makes us man” – indeed what an amazing way to describe man – as a knot. • “sir more than kisses, letters mingle souls” – so true – the power of letters on the souls of mankind is pretty much unparalleled. • “for they are in heaven on earth who heaven’s work do” – what a beautiful way to describe true philanthropy. • “the end crowns our works; but thou crowns our ends” – the thought of the end of life as a crowning or a beautiful coronation is incredible.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I hadn't read any of Donne's poetry since my last year at school, but decided to pick up this little copy of some of his selected works from my classroom bookshelf (schools are good in that way). Although there were certain poems that I remembered and liked, such as The Flea and The Sunne Rising, I didn't warm to a lot of the poetry within this book. Don't get me wrong - there were some lovely lines and some quite humorous poems, and I am still shocked and amused by the candid way in which Donne talks abou I hadn't read any of Donne's poetry since my last year at school, but decided to pick up this little copy of some of his selected works from my classroom bookshelf (schools are good in that way). Although there were certain poems that I remembered and liked, such as The Flea and The Sunne Rising, I didn't warm to a lot of the poetry within this book. Don't get me wrong - there were some lovely lines and some quite humorous poems, and I am still shocked and amused by the candid way in which Donne talks about sex (particularly for the time period in which they were written). Unfortunately however, the language did not really pull me in the majority of the time, and some poems in the book were far too verbose and long-winded for my liking.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    I like poetry that's at least one of three things: provocative or hilarious, reflecting some academic inside joke, or intensely passionate and sensual. Donne falls into the third category. He's all about sex and death, so I'm all about him. The richness and vibrancy of his language and metaphor places him in the highest echelons of literature. There are no sweet little leaves of grass blowing in the wind in any of his poems; his compositions are strong and visceral. If you want to be moved by po I like poetry that's at least one of three things: provocative or hilarious, reflecting some academic inside joke, or intensely passionate and sensual. Donne falls into the third category. He's all about sex and death, so I'm all about him. The richness and vibrancy of his language and metaphor places him in the highest echelons of literature. There are no sweet little leaves of grass blowing in the wind in any of his poems; his compositions are strong and visceral. If you want to be moved by poetry, then JD's works are the literary equivalent of mini earthquakes.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I'm rediscovering John Donne as the backdrop for hot Summer affairs. This plays well in Paris. The Oxford editions have fewer old English-isms than Penguin. I'm suddenly realizing my list is all steamy; and my friends' books are about child-rearing and religion. Uh, I'm checking out lots of churches in France and Greece, guys. . . really, I am.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mangrovejane

    John Donne...sexy, clever, witty. This is why he is one of my favourite poets. His language and imagery are both beautiful and real. Sometimes I laughed out loud with the things he wrote and other times I simply sighed quietly in complete fan girl delight. I can't comment on the edition, as I got the book simply because I wanted to read the poetry.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    One of the first poets I studied in literature and I love him. He's use of paradox is genius whilst his ability to speak of both love and faith so ambiguosly is beautiful. My favourite poems are: A Hymm To Christ: At the Author's Last Going To Germany To His Mistress Going to Bed Song

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marian

    This edition was originally published in 1950.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'm reading a version of this published in 1901 called The Muses Library.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kehinde Sonola

    A Tapestry of Brilliance.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  18. 5 out of 5

    nelkku

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dale

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tom Richards

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Marsh

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karla

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zoë

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peter King

  27. 5 out of 5

    Craig Shelton

  28. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erik

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