Learning from The Great Poets of American Verse

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I have been a blogger, who features poetry on my site on word press for over six months now. After reading other people’s original posts of poetry, week after week they have written themselves, found in a book, or on different forms of social media I began to ask myself a question,” what makes good poetry?” So, I began an educated search to answer my question.


My search leads me to ‘check out’ yet another book from my community’s local library. Recently, I have just started reading different poems from “The Oxford Book of American Verse,” an anthology of “The Great Poets of American Verse” whose work has spanned for over 4 centuries.  This collection of poetry has reminded me of some of the poet’s whose poem’s I had to read in English class while in High School and during college. And, I began to realize that the art of poetry can be as sophisticated, philosophical, or as ignorant, as the poet who is writing it. I have always enjoyed reading and writing poetry because it helps keep me sane and shows me how great works of art comes from the hidden places of one’s soul. Also, poetry is one of my tools in my toolbox I use in help keeping my moral up and my hope alive.


Here are 3 Things I have learned about the art of creating poetry after reading, “The Oxford Book of American Verse”:

  1. I am learning that to attempt to write good poetry; you must read some. By immersing yourself in work by absorbing classic poetry by well-known poets such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, T.S. Elliot, and E.E. Cummings. It will broaden your respect, appreciation, and dedication to the craft. And, one of the good things about reading an anthology such as this one; is that you get access to some of the best work of many poets located in one book.
  2.  I have read work written by ‘lesser known poets’ I didn’t know. There were poets such s Jones Very, Anne Bradstreet, Philip Freneau, and Henry Timrod whose names and whose work spanning through the course of 3 centuries I didn’t know. Furthermore, I found their poetry to make points, set trends, touch on themes, events, and beliefs uniquely expressed during the period of their lives. They brought awareness to long-standing issues that written about today such as war, gender roles, love, restrictions, social injustices, and religious views. The memory of these poets will continue to live on through the legacy of their poetry.
  3. Think about what is the purpose of why you are writing your poetry. A quote said by poet Vachel Lindsay, paraphrased in the introduction of this book on page xxx, “The Oxford Book of American Verse”, written by F.O. Matthiessen says; “He holds that the poet’s role is to ‘help people lead their lives’ by making them epicures, since the poet loves’ the world he contemplates and thereby enriches’.” For those who don’t know what the word epicure means found in the quote above, the word defined by The Advanced English Dictionary, “is a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink).” After reading this paraphrased quote, I have come to a conclusion that, I have been writing poetry to enrich myself a bit more than other people. Which has made me feel as if my, poetry has been missing a ‘little something.’


By using the purpose of ‘enriching others,’ as a driving force to write unique poetry gives me an idea of what compelled each legendary poet to produce such; high quality, unique, and historical standard of work. That continues to be read, taught on, admired, and has endured the test of time. As well as, the harsh opinions, reviews, and criticisms of multiple generations of fellow poets, scholars, literary professors, and literary critics.


This book of poetry has changed my view, purpose, and perspective on how I read, write and see other poets’ poems. So, take the time to check out this school book and thumb through it. I believe a lot of poems found in this book will appear in your personal collection as some of your favorite poems. It did for me.


Note: Here below is where I have cited my source of the book listed above in the featured article.


Works Cited

Matthiessen, F. (1968). The Oxford Book of American Verse. New York: Oxford University Press.

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