Poems Note:
“Unexceeded Minimum”
23 September 2019

ΒΆ Randall Jarrell on anthologies:

And yet if you ask, “What do I need to become an anthologist?” it is difficult to answer, as one would like to: “Taste.” Zeal and a publisher seem the irreducible and, usually, unexceeded minimum. The typical anthologist is a sort of Gallup Poll with connections β€” often astonishing ones. It is hard to know whether he is printing a poem because he likes it, because his acquaintances tell him he ought to, or because he went to high school with the poet. But certainly he is beyond good or evil, and stares over his herds of poets like a patriarch, nodding or pointing with a large industrial air.

(No Other Book, edited by Brad Leithauser, page 264)

For me, alas, every anthology is haunted, raucously, by the poems that aren’t included. There are only five by Jarrell in The Oxford Book of American Verse. Is that very bad? I have to confess, though, that what draws me to Jarrell is his judgment, not his verse. 

Of course, only the very best verse β€” Shakespeare’s sonnets, a good part of Wallace Stevens’s Harmonium, Keats’s Odes β€” are not haunted by all that is left out. 

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