Each of the editors of the Poets' Corner site
has put together his own list of favorite poems. Some in these lists cannot
be found here at Poets' Corner since they are still covered by copyright,
but that shouldn't stop you from finding and enjoying the works as
much as we do.
Editor Favorites of Nelson Miller
In compiling this list, I decided for the most part not to include
well-known poems by well-known poets. It just seemed to me that it would
be a good idea to use this list to call attention to lesser-known poems and
poets in the Poets' Corner collection, as it's among them that some
real jewels may be found.
- On the Eclipse of the Moon October 1865 by Charles Tennyson Turner
One of the real pleasures of working with Poets' Corner is the chance to discover new poets. Of those I've run across, my favorite has to be Charles Tennyson Turner, an older brother of the more famous Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Turner was a master of the sonnet, writing 342 of them. It's his ability to look at ordinary things in unusual ways that makes him attractive, I think; this sonnet describes a lunar eclipse not in visual but in aural images, tracing the disappearance of the moon's light through the silence which falls over nature as a consequence. The sound of the distant locomotive provides a distinctive counterpoint to nature's stillness.
- Poppies on the Wheat by Helen Hunt Jackson
This is a fine poem about the power of memory.
- Javanese Dancers by Arthur Symons
In 1896, a professional company of Balinese dancers first visited London. The exotic music and musical instruments, the brilliantly-colored and -jeweled costumes, and the highly stylized dance movements all created a sensation. Symons tries to capture some of the wonder of those performances by imitating in the rhythms of his poem, through his uncharacteristic use of polysyllabic vocabulary, the graceful and sinuous rhythms of the music and dancers. In doing so, he follows Alexander Pope's directive for the use of rhythm in poetry: "The sound must seem an echo to the sense."
- Mont Brevent by George Santayana
Lowlands by William Reed Huntington
Inspirational poetry is often marred for me by an over-reliance on sentimentality. These two poems, I feel, avoid that flaw, and, more interesting, employ the same image but approach it from two different directions.
- Delia XXXIX: "Look, Delia, how we 'steem the half-blown
rose" by Samuel Daniel
I think this is the best of Daniel's sonnets to Delia, as well as one of the best of all carpe diem poems.
- Autumn in the West by William Davis Gallagher
This poem, I think, can almost stand beside the best nature descriptions of Wordsworth and Bryant. The "West" of the title, by the way, refers to Ohio and Indiana, which marked the western frontier at the time this poem was written in the 1830s.
- If We Must Die by Claude McKay
This poem, to me, illustrates the universality of great art. Although written in response to the race riots of 1919 in Chicago and other American cities, it was read 20 years later by Winston Churchill to Parliament at the heighth of the Battle of Britian. It could just as easily have come from Kossovo or East Timor, or been spoken 3,000 years ago by Homer's character Hector in The Iliad. Times and places change, but human emotion remains constant. That, after all, is why we still read Shakespeare.
- Pan in Wall Street by Edmund Clarence Stedman
This poem is a delightful little fantasy in which the Greek god Pan appears, momentarily, on Wall Street and transforms it into an Arcadian paradise. Stedman, besides being a poet, also held a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Joy, I believe he is saying, is not a matter of place but of attitude.
- Early Rising by John Godfrey Saxe
It is sufficient to say I share Saxe's completely justified prejudice against "early rising."