Robert Pinsky's assignment to compile an anthology of our favorite poems have brought me much delight. The selection process has propelled me back to fond memories of when I encountered these poems and the books they were found. Each of these poems is like an old friend that I'm introducing to a new audience. I've used as my cover for this anthology, a dancing Goddess from my Penguin paperback of The Upanishads. The selections I've chosen from this Hindu philosophical classics is about remembrance of our spiritual origins and the wonder of joy in the creation of a poem or the universe.
Some of the criteria in this anthology is not to include any poems that's already in Pinsky's three anthologies Americans' Favorite Poems (1999), Poems to Read: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology (2002), and An Invitation to Poetry: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology (2004). Thus, I did not include Richard Wilbur's poem "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World" since it's already in Pinsky's collection. I love Wilbur's poem because it reminds us that heaven is right here on earth if we open our eyes to see it even in our laundry. How wonderful!
Since Pinsky wanted the class to type their poems for the Anthology, I've tried to include poems that are not on the Web. I've referenced the page numbers from the books where these poems were typed. Two longer poems Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and Byron's "Prisoner of Chillon" were downloaded from the Web. However, they were checked against books while formatting these texts in HTML. A few web links are provided for each poet for those interested in reading about their biographies or other poems they've written.
Pinsky said that we could include nursery rhymes, rap music, and prose, in addition to poems in our anthology. I've included writings from two physicists Einstein and Maxwell, and five philosophers Upanishads sages, Plato, Chuang Tzu, Plotinus, and Han Yu, because their spiritual messages are uplifting. Denise Levertov sees "Poet as priest, poem as temple with epiphanies and communion within summoning the divine." Kathleen Raine says that "Poetry is the resonance of the eternal in and through the temporal." Gary Snyder says "Poetry is an expression touching our higher self." I've tried to satisfy some of these criteria during my selection process.
Because there are so many young Stanford undergraduates in Pinsky's Workshop, I've decided to select poems that have shaped my formative years while studying at Columbia and Cornell. More time was spent writing the introductions to the poems, how each poet or poem has impacted my life. For example, I didn't discover Goethe because it was required college reading, but through the writings of Albert Schweitzer as a Columbia freshman. Goethe's life and writings have helped me much in my scientific research and growth as a poet. Likewise, Dante's vision in Paradiso have inspired me in science, poetry, as well as the spiritual quest for enlightenment.
As the deadline of this project approaches, I feel a sense of deep regret that some of my favorite writers are not included. It's as if my Ark is leaving them ashore Lao Tzu, Blake, Emerson, Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Baudelaire, James Joyce, Garcia Lorca, Robert Creeley, and Kenneth Koch. I'll have to include them in my later edition next week. Meanwhile, I hope that this anthology will inspire others to partake in the bread of angels for surely these poets have lots of ambrosia for us to drink.
Peter Y. Chou
| © Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039