Recent Poetry Favourites: Sappho, e.e. cummings, & Dante

10:58 am

It took me a long old while to get into poetry. There are a few poems I remember loving when I was studying them at school, but that kind of environment where you're picking things apart to try and glean meaning isn't conducive to falling in love with poetry. I remember getting endlessly bored trying to analyse Browning's 'Fra Lippo Lippi', but loving 'My Last Duchess' and 'Porphyria's Lover'. I have a huge soft spot for Shelley's 'Ozymandias', Ginsberg's 'Howl', and anything by Plath, Pound, or Eliot thanks to my years at university. It had been a while since I had read any poetry for pleasure, and recently I've found myself in the perfect headspace for it, so here are three volumes I've been read/read over the past few months.

Inferno by Dante, translated by Robin Kirkpatrick (Penguin Classics) - Hopefully my final attempt to ever read this epic poem. I'm only up to Canto 5, but I'm reading the notes and annotating as I go so it's pretty slow progress. I'm really liking this translation however; it's pleasantly un-clunky and still feels very poetic. As a sucker for any kind of classical allusions, this is a wonderful read.

Come Close by Sappho, translated by Aaron Poochigan (Penguin Little Black Classics) - Go out and pick up a copy of one of Sappho's poetry collections. Although everything is only in fragments, this is some of the most beautiful poetry I've ever read. At several points when I reading I would actually just have to put the book down and stare into space for a while. Sappho knew what she was doing.

Selected Poems 1923-1958 by e. e. cummings (Faber) - This definitely isn't a poetry collection for the first-time reader. cummings liked to throw random punctuation into the middle of sentences and write really long parenthetical lines. Each poem requires several readthroughs but I think they're really rewarding. Some of the imagery he uses is completely bizarre, but works in a way I haven't ever read before.

M x

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