This is the age of originality, of individual freedom and expression. Business and art emphasize the new and different. “New” has become synonymous with “improved.” What need do we have, then, for revisions of the famous poems of dead poets?
Few of us have invented the cars we drive, assembled the machines that toast our bread, patterned the clothes we wear, or fashioned the tools we write with; we cannot take for granted what we have not made ourselves. Civilization, culture, depends on received forms. We all owe debts to da Vinci and Newton, Edison and Einstein, Whitney and Ford, and countless others who have invented the things we use.
This book expresses my debts to the poets whom I read in grade school, the poets whom my parents read. How my work is different from Shakespeare’s, from Whittier’s, from Dickinson’s is either apparent or hidden. How my work is similar is either hidden or apparent.
Each of my poems here is paired with the poem by the original poet. Click on a puzzle piece to listen to me read my poem; click on the name of the original poet to open the original poem; click on the portrait of the poet to listen to Clifford Schwartz read. Click the image a second time to stop the recording.
This book is based on One Hundred and One Famous Poems, with a prose supplement: An Anthology, edited by Roy Jay Cook, Library of Congress card number 60-9006, originally published in 1920. The image of the author in the puzzle is digitized from a photograph by Katherine Kahrs.
I dedicate this book in memory of Gretchen without whose forbearance and love fewer things would have been possible, and in memory of David Bromige who may be given the credit; I will take the blame.