Best Poems on the Underground, ed Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik, Cicely Herbert
Sunday 10 October 2010
What is great about the Poems on the Underground project is that it doesn't demand high commitment from the reader. The poems are short, easy to read, and the range is so wide and eclectic that if you don't like or get one poem, you'll be likely to like or get the next. This latest edition to collect the 300 "best" poems used for the project captures that spirit perfectly.
The alphabetical arrangement leads to some pleasing juxtapositions: Anne Stevenson rubbing shoulders with RL Stevenson; Robert Herrick hanging out with Geoffrey Hill; AE Housman cheek-by-jowl with Langston Hughes; Edna St Vincent Millay slumming it with Spike Milligan. There's a pleasing balance of old favourites and contemporary poetry, and a decent sprinkling of poetry in translation.
Inevitably, there are a few duds (I could have done without Elizabeth Barrett Browning's godawful "Sonnet from the Portuguese") but overall the hit rate is high. I love Hugo Williams' "Saturday Morning": "Everyone who made love the night before/ was walking round with flashing red lights/ on top of their heads..."
The perfect anthology to while away a tedious Tube journey.
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