List Of Great Poems Not In This Book


I recently found a 1931 edition of The Week-End Book (first published by Nonesuch Press in 1924). It refers to itself as a poetry anthology. Indeed the first 165 pages are a section entitled ‘Great Poems‘. This is followed by much smaller sections of:

Hate Poems
State poems (poems patriotic enough even for Gove.)
Zoo poems (poems based on animals.)
Songs (complete with sheet music.)
Games (‘Human Polo: The biggest men are ponies, and the girls or lighter weights mount them pick-a-back… Flat Racing: Ponies similarly mounted race thirty yards on hands and knees; after which apply iodine to the kneecaps.’)
Travels with Donkey (which seems to mean camping tips, such as how to improvise a cup from ‘paper 7 to 9 inches square’ which you remembered despite forgetting your cup.)
Bird Song At Morning
Starshine at Night (with diagrams.)
On Food and Drink
The Law And How You Break It
First Aid In Divers Crises (sic.)
List Of Great Poems Not In This Book
Manuscript Pages (with prompts nudging you to fill them with your own poems, songs, games, recipes, and prescriptions.)
A Checkers Board, Nine Mens Morris Board and Rulers (printed as endpapers.)

Yes an anthology can be a binding together of anything, but as mentioned the book does refer to itself as a ‘poetry anthology’. It reads like a poetry anthology that has accidentally been bound together with the facts and games section of a Rupert Bear annual. I enjoy the brazen attitude that says we can fit everything you need for your great weekend in one book, and most of it is going to be poetry.

However, what really caught my eye was the ‘List of Great Poems Which Are Contained In Many Memories And Anthologies And Are Therefore Omitted From This Book’. I’m sure there are those who would argue the phrase ‘Great’ (a friend once told me, ‘You don’t need to read anthologies, you don’t need someone else to tell you what’s good.’) But setting that can of worms to one side, I like that while the editor has decided to not fill his pages with the obvious, he’s also not going to assume it’s so obvious that there won’t be people grateful for the list. It seems a happy medium, and turns the ‘List Of Great Poems Not In This Book’ into a spotters guide. I may not have read all poems that have been printed in this book, but I have definitely looked down the list of those that are not, mainly to see if I agree.

Perhaps I am being nostalgic, maybe if a contemporary anthology did this I would find it patronizing or cliquey to see a list of poems I’m expected to know, and perhaps it is only the opportunity to sample changing tastes that makes the list interesting now. However it might be fun, at the end of the next themed anthology of new work, to see, not a list of ‘poems you should know’, but a list of ‘poems that were our starting point, poems our work grew from.’