Hannah Faith Notess – Writers on the Classics #13

April 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

 

20130122_SPU_Response-Winter-2013_Hannah-Notess_Portrait_001In 2013, we are encouraging our readers to mix up their reading habits, and read (or re-read) classics in addition to new books, such as the ones we review here in the ERB.

Broadly speaking, a classic is any book that is not a new book, or in other words that is worth reading five, ten or even one hundred years after its initial publication. ERB Editor Chris Smith has an article on The Huffington Post website arguing for reading a mix of classics and new books in 2013.

 

We’ve asked a number of noted writers to pick the classics that they often return to, and we will be running these lists as a weekly feature on our website through 2013.

This week’s post in the series is by Hannah Faith Notess.

Writers on the Classics:
[#1 - Shane Claiborne ] [#12 (Previous Post) - Rachel Marie Stone ]

 

Hannah Faith Notess is managing editor of Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine and editor of Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical, a collection of personal essays. Her poems have appeared in The Christian Century, Slate, Rattle, and The Mennonite, among other publications. For more of her idiosyncratic book opinions, check out 30bookstoreadbefore30.wordpress.com. She lives in Seattle. (Photo credit: Luke Rutan).

 


It’s National Poetry Month! And as will quickly become apparent, that I have a thing for iambic pentameter. Though I probably read more fiction by volume than poetry, it’s the poetry books that have gotten carried around for months at a time, that I’ve returned to again and again. I can read a great poem dozens of times and never get bored. Here are some of the classics that are in the multiple-rereadings category for me.

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William Wordsworth – The Major Works: including The Prelude
 
Alternate version available for FREE  on Kindle: 
Vol 1 ]  [ Vol 2 ]

 
Sometimes I daydream that I was raised in an era where learning to recite poetry aloud was required in school, and I could just rattle off “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” or “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” or maybe even just “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” Like Milton, Wordsworth’s musical pentameter marries sound and sense. And Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” is one of the clearest yet most befuddling statements about what poetry is and ought to be. I think any reader or writer would do well to wrestle with it. No, I have not made it through the whole Prelude yet. Someday, someday.
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The Portable Coleridge

 
Alternate version available for FREE on Kindle

 
I’ve got no problem with Keats, but in my opinion Wordsworth and Coleridge could write the rest of the Romantics under the table (especially Byron, bleah). Coleridge I love for two reasons. One is the stunning magic of a poem like “Frost at Midnight,” which never gets old. The other is his marvelous, grandiose, and troubled mind, spread out in “Biographia Literaria.” Ambition and failure lie side-by-side. But why not try something big?

Amazon ImagePoems of Akhmatova
 
“Even after his death he did not return / to the city that nursed him,” she wrote of Dante. Akhmatova was censored and punished in the Soviet regime, but her poems of suffering and courage indelibly outlast those who tried to destroy her. This is the translation and selection I know best, though there’s much more to Akhmatova’s work.
Amazon ImageC. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems
 
In these poems, the ancient Greek world coexists with Cavafy’s modern Alexandria as if nothing were more natural in the world than the past being immediately present. I highly recommend the Keeley/Sherrard translation.

[ Click to continue reading Hannah's list on Page 2... ]