NER Classics | On Poetry Anthologies | Rachel Hadas

41THNY4FF3LRachel Hadas’ piece, “On Poetry Anthologies,” appeared in NER 19.4:

. . . It’s true that the best poetry anthologies give the impression of being not siftings from other anthologies but personal statements, even personal testaments. And the reader who browses through poetry anthologies also brings personal responses beyond simply liking one poem or disliking another. Increasingly, for example, what I notice in anthologies are mistakes. Richmond Lattimore seems to be undergoing a sea-change into Richard Lattimore; my own first name has been misspelled and my date of birth gotten wrong; and an anthology edited by the late M. L. Rosenthal confidently glossed a short lyric by James Merrill as being addressed to the poet’s wife. Even more than errors, anthologies are known for sins of omission—how could Poem X or Poet Y possibly have been left out? But though I sometimes lament the absence of one poem or the inclusion of another, such ins and outs concern me less than the wider matter of context . . . 

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This ghostly realm

In NER 32.1, Rachel Hadas described the feelings of invisibility that haunted her after moving her husband into a dementia facility:

In her Notes to The Annotated Poems of Edward Thomas, editor Edna Longley comments that Thomas “often suffered from the paranoid belief that he was less visible or necessary to other people than they to him . . . he was perversely pleased when the changes effected in his appearance by the army confirmed this: ‘Nobody recognizes me now. Sturge Moore, E[dward] Marsh, & R. C. Trevelyan stood a yard off and I didn’t trouble to awake them to stupid recognition.’”

Was Thomas’s belief really all that paranoid? I suspect that Edward Thomas and I are not the only poets, or the only people, to have felt invisible. On the contrary, I’ve come to feel that it is probably a universal experience. I’ve also had occasion to remember that several of my poems that have nothing to do with George’s illness are about crossings or farewells, encounters in which one person fleetingly but significantly sees another one: “The Red Hat” (1994), for example, where our son walks to school alone up West End Avenue and George and I turn back home; or “The Golden Road” (2009), in which my now grown son and I, having walked in opposite directions on a country road, encounter one another before going our separate ways. Frost captures a related feeling at the end of his poem “Meeting and Passing”: “Afterward I went past what you had passed/ Before we met and you what I had passed.”

And there’s more to say about this ghostly realm…

[Read “Invisibility“]

New Books by NER Writers: The Golden Road by Rachel Hadas

From the jacket copy of Rachel Hadas’s new book of poems: “A central theme of The Golden Road is the prolonged dementia of the poet’s husband. But Rachel Hadas’s new collection sets the loneliness of progressive loss in the context of the continuities that sustain her: reading, writing, and memory; familiar places; and the rich texture of a life fully lived. These poems are meticulously observed, nimble in their deployment of a range of forms, and capacious in their range of reference. The Golden Road laments, but it also celebrates.”

Rachel Hadas is a professor of English at the Newark College of Arts and Sciences of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She is also a poet, translator, and essayist. Her most recent books are The Ache of Appetite (2010), a collection of poems; and Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry (2011). New England Review has published Rachel Hadas’s work eight times since 2003. Her most recent publication in NER, “Invisibility” was published in 2011 (32.1).

Recent Books by NER Authors

Dan DeWeese, You Don’t Love This Man

“At the start of DeWeese’s engaging debut, Paul, a bank manager in the Pacific Northwest, loses his three-year-old daughter, Miranda, for a short time while trick-or-treating. After Miranda disappears 22 years later, on the day of her wedding, Paul begins a series of increasingly frustrating attempts to locate and talk with her. Unable to read relationship cues, Paul is often surprised or angered by the actions of those he thinks he knows well . . . Essentially decent, caring, and loyal, Paul is more valued than he suspects. Paul learns some valuable lessons as he retraces and re-evaluates his life in this insightful novel.” —Publishers Weekly

Rachel Hadas, Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry

In 2004 Rachel Hadas’s husband, George Edwards, a composer and professor of music at Columbia University, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of sixty-one. Strange Relation is her account of ‘losing’ George.

“[A] thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness.” —Lydia Davis

Lizzie Hutton, She’d Waited Millennia

“Rarely—very rarely indeed—a poet arrives in the world full-blown, possessed of musical mastery, cognitive penetration, yea, wisdom of the sort that eludes almost all of us almost all of the time. And utterly fresh, with a voice not-heard-before. Lizzie Hutton is just such a poet.” —Linda Gregerson

Carl Phillips, Double Shadow: Poems

Carl Phillips, in his eleventh book, examines the double shadow that a life casts forth: ‘now risk, and now / faintheartedness.’ In poems that both embody and inhabit this double shadow, risk and faintheartedness prove to have the power equally to rescue us from ourselves and to destroy us. Spare, haunted, and haunting, yet not without hope, Double Shadow argues for life as a wilderness through which there’s only the questing forward with no regrets and no looking back.

Sigrid Nunez, Sempre Susan

“A poignant, intimate memoir of one of America’s most esteemed and fascinating cultural figures, and a deeply felt work of homage. . . . Published more than six years after Sontag’s death, this book is a startlingly truthful portrait of this outsize personality, who made being an intellectual a glamorous occupation.”

Martha Rhodes, The Beds

In The Beds, award-winning poet Martha Rhodes skillfully navigates a tonally complex terrain. Rhodes fourth collection mixes form and free-verse, specifically using the rondelet’s tight, obsessive repetition as a means to harness and modulate frenetic content.