2022 is a great year for poets’ biographies and anthologies
This year is shaping up as one of the best in recent memory for biographies, anthologies, and collected poems and diaries of poets and poetry. I’m tempted to credit the COVID pandemic for keeping a lot of writers occupied and focused. But I know, at least in some cases, the work has been underway for several years.
Here are 10 major works published in the last 12 months, with most of them in 2022.
What tops my personal list is Eliot After The Waste Land by Robert Crawford. We reviewed it here at Tweetspeak in August. It’s the second (and final) part of his biography of Eliot, and it’s every bit as good as the first volume, which was outstanding. The timing of Volume 2 was spot on — this year is the centennial of the publication of The Waste Land.
Who would have thought that the English poet John Donne (1572-1632) would be the subject of a thorough and surprisingly popular biography? But that’s what happened with Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell. I’ve read excerpts, interviews, and reviews in numerous publications of the man who was poet, preacher, religious outcast, law scholar, sea adventurer, and what Rundell calls “the greatest love poet of the English language.”
Between 1907 and 1949, covering youth to middle age, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay kept diaries. They remained unpublished, until now. Poet and biographer Daniel Mark Epstein has edited the diaries and published them under the title Rapture and Melancholy: The Diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay. From all accounts, they provide considerable insights into her poems and life.
Paul Auster is best known for his novels, like The New York Trilogy, but he was apparently quite taken by another American writer and poet — Stephen Crane, he of The Red Badge of Courage. Burning Boy: The Life and Work of Stephen Crane was published in hardback a year ago; the paperback will be available Nov. 1. What’s amazing about Crane was how much he accomplished — and his impact on American letters — before he died from tuberculosis at age 28.
British English professor Lauren Arrington has published several books about Modernism and Modernist poets, and now she’s turned her attention to the circle around Ezra Pound. Pound was highly regarded and influential (he persuaded Poetry Magazine to publish The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock), at least until the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany. The Poets of Rapallo: How Mussolini’s Italy Shaped British, Irish, and U.S. Writers explores the social and cultural circles surrounding Pound, focusing on the years between 1928 and 1935.
Princeton University Press has published the Complete Works of W.H. Auden in two volumes. Edited by Columbia professor, writer, and Auden scholar Edward Mendelson, Volume 1 covers the years from 1927 to 1939, while Volume 2 covers the years 1940 to 1973. If you’re an Auden fan, that’s almost 2,000 pages of poetry and writings. The two volumes are published on the centennial of when Auden first began writing poetry.
Whenever I’m in a bookstore, I always have an eye out for new volumes by the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series. Recent finds have been the poetry of Leonard Cohen, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the Beat Poets. Just this month, Everyman’s Library has published English Romantic Poets, edited by Jonathan Bate. Poems include those by William Blake, William, Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
And speaking of the Romantics, biographer Lucasta Miller has published Keats: A Brief Life in Nine Poems and One Epitaph. Miller uses the poems to tell the story of Keats’ life, and the man who emerges is a poet who lived life on the edge – and wrote that way as well. He was something of a marginal poet in his own day, but is considered a major English poet some two centuries after his death.
Poetry editor and professor Micah Mattix and poet and novelist Sally Thomas have joined forces to publish Christian Poetry in America Since 1940. It’s been called “one of the best, and least expected, anthologies in decades.” Included are poems by Dana Gioia, Paul Mariani, Jay Parini, Jeanne Murray Walker, Mark Jarman, Marly Youmans, Scott Cairns, Marjorie Maddox, A.M. Juster, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, Julia Kasdorf, Christian Wiman, Tania Runyan, James Matthew Wilson, Benjamin Myers, and several others (many of whom have been reviewed here at Tweetspeak).
And University Press, which specializes in short biographies of writers, celebrities, political figures, and others, has published Amanda Gorman: The Biography. In 2021, Gorman became the youngest poet ever to read at a presidential inauguration. Her current body of work is small, but her impact has been significant.
If you’re aware of or have purchased any other poetry anthologies or biographies, please share them in the comments section.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
- J.D. McClatchy Tells the Story of the Civil War — in Poetry - November 15, 2022
- Poets and Poems: Paul Brookes and “As FolkTaleTeller” - November 8, 2022
- Poets and Poems: Jack Bedell and “Against the Woods’ Dark Trunks” - November 1, 2022