Selected 'Selected Poems'

'70s paperback volumes of Selected Poems by Marianne Moore and John Berryman

In my recent reading have been half a dozen books with the same title: Selected Poems. I especially enjoyed the two shown above. Putting aside my usual predilection for poetry in translation, these books have predominantly been by poets writing in American English.

Barring a couple of brief encounters in anthologies, I’d made the mistake of overlooking Marianne Moore’s poems until now, which is too bad as I find them very much to my taste. For me there’s something reminiscent of a fine jeweller’s sharp-eyed precision in the way she fits her words together into elaborate settings as if they were so many semi-precious stones - all to suitably sparkling effect.

John Berryman’s Selected Poems (1938-1968), on the other hand, I’d met with before, having owned an ’80s copy of the same collection in my youth. This latterly-acquired early-’70s one has the benefit of being printed on better-quality paper. Although he worked within the constraints of meter & rhyme often enough, Berryman’s art comes across as altogether untidier than Moore’s; a side-effect perhaps of his flailing through a chaotic life. There are nevertheless jewels aplenty in his poetry too.