Traveling to Poetry

Ancient Persians believed that between Heaven and Earth there is a third layer where every element of our experience exists in its ideal form, where art and music live, where we go in our songs, in our paintings, and in our dreams to meet in their more perfect embodiment those long gone from the world below. Of course, it is just a metaphor; all cosmologies are. But it gives us a way to think about poems as timeless models of experience to which we travel for solace, pleasure, and inspiration. Poems, too, are meeting places.

I think of an anthology as a grand old hotel along the New England coast (or a run-down country house in England) where all the dead poets live, walking in the garden with their poet friends. A few of the old masters, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Whitman, Longfellow, slouch side by side on a sunny bench, wearing their big hats. Kipling restlessly taps his tennis racket against his leg, staring out to sea. Others stand at the window in their room, speaking softly again and ever again their immortal words. Waiting for us.

A note on this collection: These are a hundred or so poems chosen from the nearly 600 included in Immortal Poets because they are short, serious, and easy to grasp online. More will be added in time. Suggestions, corrections and comments are always welcome.

Immortal Poets; Their Lives and Verse, edited by Christopher Burns