Saturday, November 15, 2008

Five milestones among poetry anthologies

John Hollander's books include A Draft of Light: Poems (2008) and Rhyme's Reason: A Guide to English Verse (2001). At the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of "Milestones Among Poetry Anthologies."

One title on the list:
The Real Mother Goose
Illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright
Rand, McNally, 1916

This is the first poetry anthology I ever encountered, as a very young child. Titled and probably selected by its illustrator, Blanche Fisher Wright, the book offers several handsome full-page pictures. But more important, in my mind as a child, were the smaller ones scattered among the nursery rhymes about Little Bo-Peep, Georgy Porgy and Wee Willie Winkie, often causing an interesting confusion. Pictures can be harder for children to "read" than text because they may not have learned a particular set of pictorial conventions; the deciphering is half the fun. "Mother Goose" is the fictive cover-name for a wonderful anthologist -- her rhymes, many derived from mysterious sources, are still a scripture of childhood.
Read about all five titles on Hollander's list.

--Marshal Zeringue