Did you know? Thomas Hardy dedicated the last 30 years of his life to poetry only after his final novel, Jude the Obscure, was slated by critics and the book publicly burned by a bishop; or that Philip Larkin’s final long poem, Aubade, was written at a time when “poetry had abandoned him.”
These are just some of the poetry insights to be found in Alan Bennett’s Anthology, Six Poets – Hardy to Larkin. The book is a gem, but would you expect anything different from one of England’s greatest writers choosing poems from six of his favourite poets?
Six Poets is more than just a collection of poetry. Bennett’s commentary and quirky insights, on the poets and the poems, bring the collection to life. They take you to the writing desks of Hardy, Housman, Betjeman, Auden, MacNeice and Larkin and give some background on the lives and experiences inspiring the poems. As Bennett says, “some knowledge of the poet’s life must add to the pleasure and understanding of his or her poetry.”
The book is suitable for experienced poetry lovers and beginners alike and is one to be savoured in a single sitting or, dipped in an out of as and when the mood takes. It is a book I would highly recommend to any poetry enthusiast.
Here is a taste from Thomas Hardy, written at the age of 89 when religion, according to Bennett, offered no consolation.
“Peace upon earth!” was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
After two thousand years of mass
We’ve got as far as poison-gas.