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The Rattle Bag: An Anthology of Poetry

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"The Rattle Bag" is an anthology of poetry (mostly in English but occasionally in translation) for general readers and students of all ages and backgrounds. These poems have been selected by the simple yet telling criteria that they are the personal favorites of the editors, themselves two of contemporary literature's leading poets. Moreover, Heaney and Hughes have elected "The Rattle Bag" is an anthology of poetry (mostly in English but occasionally in translation) for general readers and students of all ages and backgrounds. These poems have been selected by the simple yet telling criteria that they are the personal favorites of the editors, themselves two of contemporary literature's leading poets. Moreover, Heaney and Hughes have elected to list their favorites not by theme or by author but simply by title (or by first line, when no title is given). As they explain in their Introduction: "We hope that our decision to impose an arbitrary alphabetical order allows the contents [of this book] to discover themselves as we ourselves gradually discovered them--each poem full of its singular appeal, transmitting its own signals, taking its chances in a big, voluble world." With undisputed masterpieces and rare discoveries, with both classics and surprises galore, "The Rattle Bag" includes the work of such key poets as William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and Sylvia Plath among its hundreds of poems. A helpful Glossary as well as an Index of Poets and Works are offered at the conclusion of this hefty, unorthodox, diverse, inspired, and inspiring collection of poetry.


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"The Rattle Bag" is an anthology of poetry (mostly in English but occasionally in translation) for general readers and students of all ages and backgrounds. These poems have been selected by the simple yet telling criteria that they are the personal favorites of the editors, themselves two of contemporary literature's leading poets. Moreover, Heaney and Hughes have elected "The Rattle Bag" is an anthology of poetry (mostly in English but occasionally in translation) for general readers and students of all ages and backgrounds. These poems have been selected by the simple yet telling criteria that they are the personal favorites of the editors, themselves two of contemporary literature's leading poets. Moreover, Heaney and Hughes have elected to list their favorites not by theme or by author but simply by title (or by first line, when no title is given). As they explain in their Introduction: "We hope that our decision to impose an arbitrary alphabetical order allows the contents [of this book] to discover themselves as we ourselves gradually discovered them--each poem full of its singular appeal, transmitting its own signals, taking its chances in a big, voluble world." With undisputed masterpieces and rare discoveries, with both classics and surprises galore, "The Rattle Bag" includes the work of such key poets as William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and Sylvia Plath among its hundreds of poems. A helpful Glossary as well as an Index of Poets and Works are offered at the conclusion of this hefty, unorthodox, diverse, inspired, and inspiring collection of poetry.

30 review for The Rattle Bag: An Anthology of Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marcia

    This collection of poetry edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes is the perfect addition to any poetry shelf. Having made my way cover to cover, I will now find joy in taking The Rattle Bag off the shelf, opening to a random page, and enjoying the words I find there. Seamus Heaney on the title: ... the volume was too abundant, too frolicsome and too unruly to go by the rather headmasterly title in the contract, so all of a sudden Ted suggested we call it by the name of a strange roguish poem trans This collection of poetry edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes is the perfect addition to any poetry shelf. Having made my way cover to cover, I will now find joy in taking The Rattle Bag off the shelf, opening to a random page, and enjoying the words I find there. Seamus Heaney on the title: ... the volume was too abundant, too frolicsome and too unruly to go by the rather headmasterly title in the contract, so all of a sudden Ted suggested we call it by the name of a strange roguish poem translated from the Welsh of Dafydd ap Gwilym. It's about an instrument that sounds more like an implement, a raucous, distracting, shake, rattle-and-roll affair that disturbs the poet and his lover while they lie together in the greenwood. In the words of the translator, Joseph Clancy, it becomes a noisy pouch perched on a pole, a bell of pebbles and gravel, "a blare, a bloody nuisance". We were wanting to serve notice that the anthology was a wake-up call, an attempt to bring poetry and younger people to their senses. ... What we hoped to do was to shake the rattle and awaken the sleeping inner poet in every reader.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Lawrence

    This is one of my favorite anthologies -- some standards, some real surprises, consistently chosen by idiosyncratic sensibilities that say as much about the editor poets as about the quality of the chosen work itself. I don't think I would have ever been exposed to the "Hunter Poems of the Yoruba" but for this anthology, and I suspect Heaney threw in the strong presence of anonymous early traditional verse while Hughes ensured there would be a heavy dose of D.H. Lawrence. Maybe great American po This is one of my favorite anthologies -- some standards, some real surprises, consistently chosen by idiosyncratic sensibilities that say as much about the editor poets as about the quality of the chosen work itself. I don't think I would have ever been exposed to the "Hunter Poems of the Yoruba" but for this anthology, and I suspect Heaney threw in the strong presence of anonymous early traditional verse while Hughes ensured there would be a heavy dose of D.H. Lawrence. Maybe great American poetry is a bit underrepresented, but all in all this is a very earthy, exhilarating collection of some of English poetry's best short lyrics (with some translations from other traditions).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    an unusual anthology, but i chose it because of my love of heaney. hughes, well, not so much. i've taken to opening it to random pages and enjoying a few pages of poetry every couple of days - the randomness of it is easily the best part. it contains quite a few poets that i know and love, and so very many that i was unfamiliar with. which makes it a lovely exercise in seeing new wordsmiths and devouring their words. an unusual anthology, but i chose it because of my love of heaney. hughes, well, not so much. i've taken to opening it to random pages and enjoying a few pages of poetry every couple of days - the randomness of it is easily the best part. it contains quite a few poets that i know and love, and so very many that i was unfamiliar with. which makes it a lovely exercise in seeing new wordsmiths and devouring their words.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark Glover

    Another fine collection of poems I have been slowly working my way through these past few years, The Rattle Bag is the perfect collection for anyone hoping to get back into reading poetry. The collection, an expansive collection of classical and modern poetry, really does offer nearly all poetry has to offer and I am sure others will find, as I did, that there are a number of poems which you will find yourself returning time and again as well as new poets whose work you will seek out(good luck w Another fine collection of poems I have been slowly working my way through these past few years, The Rattle Bag is the perfect collection for anyone hoping to get back into reading poetry. The collection, an expansive collection of classical and modern poetry, really does offer nearly all poetry has to offer and I am sure others will find, as I did, that there are a number of poems which you will find yourself returning time and again as well as new poets whose work you will seek out(good luck with that, all but the classics poetry volumes are generally small print runs and therefore prohibitively expensive). The collection(edited with serious credentials by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney) is organised alphabetically by title which while initially seeming a strange choice works really well as it avoids the pitfalls of arranging by author or subject both of which can get tiresome. It also works because it means you will find a new poem addressing a new subject matter on each page(sometimes two to a page) meaning it doesn't allow you to lapse into lazy reading, the juxtaposing of some poems offering even greater insight into a subject matter. The collection is clearly a passion project for the editors and designed not with academia in mind but to act as a reinvigoration of a lost art. That it was first published in 1982 and I still in print over 30 years later speaks to the success of their goals, that it is not more widely read and not in every school classroom speaks of its failings. Poetry, sadly, is taught in a way that does not offer the vast majority a way into a poem, I mean the works of Milton might be fantastic to some but sadly they will fall on deaf ears to the majority. By choosing one or two poets and flogging them to death across the school curriculum we do both the poets and the students a disservice. Some might say poetry has had its day and that it is a quaint medium of days past, given its redundancy by more new and exciting forms of expression, but poetry in a way is our most formative introduction to literature; think only of the children's rhymes we all learn in preschool and how they stick with us through generation after generation, remembered word for word and transferred from parent to child in the oral tradition. These poems resonate in the same way any poem resonates, they are fun, they communicate a message and most importantly they occupy a time and space in which our world was free of expectation and responsibility. Poems still posses all of these characteristics but the message is somehow lost in the transmission. People think of poetry as something that serious minded people read and ponder over while sipping whisky by the fire side, but it is also something that can link people together with memory and shared emotion. If you have ever been fortunate enough to hear someone recite a poem from memory to a captive audience it is like watching magic being conjured from thin air. For those with the gift, it is as if they have captured the essence of the room, excavated the emotion from the audience and let it out in a glorious breaching of the night air. There is value in poetry, specifically to those who have distanced themselves from it, it is the equal of any book, film or song, the distillation of time, place and emotion into stanzas on a page waiting on a reader to calm their mind and truly listen.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    Over the years I've accumulated a variety of poetry anthologies. This is probably my favorite. For reasons which I can't articulate other than to say that I like the poems that are in it. (Duh!) Over the years I've accumulated a variety of poetry anthologies. This is probably my favorite. For reasons which I can't articulate other than to say that I like the poems that are in it. (Duh!)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Arnold

    A very mixed bag, this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amber Scaife

    A collection of poems curated by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes for kiddos. Some old favorites (and for them to be favorites for me, you *know* they're *old*), some new (to me) delights, and a fair few that didn't really resonate with me. A mixed rattle bag, as it were. A collection of poems curated by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes for kiddos. Some old favorites (and for them to be favorites for me, you *know* they're *old*), some new (to me) delights, and a fair few that didn't really resonate with me. A mixed rattle bag, as it were.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sylvester

    A more eclectic collection than usual. Some of my favorites: - The Seafarer, by Anon(version by Ezra Pound)-"he singeth summerward" - Spring, by G.M.Hopkins -"What is all this juice and this joy? - Fairy Tale, by Miroslav Holub -"He cut out his bit of sky" - Dinogad's Petticoat, from the Welsh(trans Gwyn Williams) "Whatever your father struck with his spear wild pig wild cat fox from his lair unless it had wings it never got clear." - Breathing Space July, by Tomas Transtromer "the islands cra A more eclectic collection than usual. Some of my favorites: - The Seafarer, by Anon(version by Ezra Pound)-"he singeth summerward" - Spring, by G.M.Hopkins -"What is all this juice and this joy? - Fairy Tale, by Miroslav Holub -"He cut out his bit of sky" - Dinogad's Petticoat, from the Welsh(trans Gwyn Williams) "Whatever your father struck with his spear wild pig wild cat fox from his lair unless it had wings it never got clear." - Breathing Space July, by Tomas Transtromer "the islands crawl like moths over the globe." - The Bight, by Elizabeth Bishop "White, crumbling ribs of marl protrude and glare" - Apple Blossom, by Louis MacNeice "And when from Eden we take our way The morning after is the first day."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Parrish Lantern

    If you want a book you can dip into, that you can use to explore different poets from around the world. That can be a reference point to start your voyage into the alleys, paths & highways of poetry this is a good book to start with.The poets covered, some are known, some famous, but theres obscure poems, anonymous poems, poets whose lines you see within these pages will set you off on the road to other works/writers. This book book is a key, a door, a path its up to you what you do with it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    E A M Harris

    A very interesting and different collection of poetry, chosen by two of our most famous modern poets. The time covered is from Renaissance to today and the subject matter is all human experience. The ordering alphabetically by title breaks up the usual pattern of 'by date' and places poets beside each other in fascinating ways. Recommended to all lovers of poetry. Also a good starter for those who would like to read poetry but don't know where to begin. A very interesting and different collection of poetry, chosen by two of our most famous modern poets. The time covered is from Renaissance to today and the subject matter is all human experience. The ordering alphabetically by title breaks up the usual pattern of 'by date' and places poets beside each other in fascinating ways. Recommended to all lovers of poetry. Also a good starter for those who would like to read poetry but don't know where to begin.

  11. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    This is a brilliant and bountiful poetry collection. Its very variety, of course, means it can't help but be a bit uneven (subjectively so), but, all in all, it's been a tremendous pleasure. I spent the last year and a half reading one poem a day, and there was hardly a one that wasn't enjoyable from one aspect or another. This is a brilliant and bountiful poetry collection. Its very variety, of course, means it can't help but be a bit uneven (subjectively so), but, all in all, it's been a tremendous pleasure. I spent the last year and a half reading one poem a day, and there was hardly a one that wasn't enjoyable from one aspect or another.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    A great anthology, made all the better by the decision to arrange the poems alphabetically, thus ensuring a rather more random feel to the collection - so much better than chronology. It introduced me to a few new poets, most particularly Elizabeth Bishop.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Isaac L

    One of the best poetry anthologies going, compiled by two masters of the form. The only unavoidable downside is that it collects poetry up to its publication and thus has nothing more contemporary than 1982.

  14. 4 out of 5

    T.J.

    In Manchester there are a thousand puddles. Bus-queue puddles poised on slanting paving stones, Railway puddles slouching outside stations, Cinema puddles in ambush at the exits, Zebra-crossing puddles in dips of the dark stripes – They lurk in the murk Of the north-western evening For the sake of their notorious joke, Their only joke – to soak The tights or trousers of the citizens. Each splash and consequent curse is echoed by One thousand dark Mancunian puddle chuckles. In Manchester there lives the King In Manchester there are a thousand puddles. Bus-queue puddles poised on slanting paving stones, Railway puddles slouching outside stations, Cinema puddles in ambush at the exits, Zebra-crossing puddles in dips of the dark stripes – They lurk in the murk Of the north-western evening For the sake of their notorious joke, Their only joke – to soak The tights or trousers of the citizens. Each splash and consequent curse is echoed by One thousand dark Mancunian puddle chuckles. In Manchester there lives the King of Puddles, Master of Miniature Muck Lakes, The Shah of Slosh, Splendifero of Splash, Prince, Pasha and Pope of Puddledom. Where? Somewhere. The rain-headed ruler Lies doggo, incognito, Disguised as an average, accidental mini-pool. He is as scared as any other emperor, For one night, all his soiled and soggy victims Might storm his streets, assassination in their minds, A thousand rolls of blotting paper in their hands, And drink his shadowed, one-joke life away.

  15. 5 out of 5

    szymborskalyte

    After flipping through a third of the anthology and realizing I cared for maybe 3% of the selection, I've resigned to the fact that my tastes and those of the 'old guard' do not coincide in the slightest. It reminds me of why I thought I didn't like poetry growing up -- it's because of selection and tastes like these. But of course it isn't that I don't like poetry per se (or even 'old' poetry -- I love Shakespeare's sonnets if not necessarily the ones picked out here), it's like I don't like th After flipping through a third of the anthology and realizing I cared for maybe 3% of the selection, I've resigned to the fact that my tastes and those of the 'old guard' do not coincide in the slightest. It reminds me of why I thought I didn't like poetry growing up -- it's because of selection and tastes like these. But of course it isn't that I don't like poetry per se (or even 'old' poetry -- I love Shakespeare's sonnets if not necessarily the ones picked out here), it's like I don't like this type of poetry. Who doesn't like images, metaphors, and words carefully put together to say and feel more than they really should? Any lover of words does. But this is atavistic, and if you're a modern reader like I am, don't be surprised if you don't find them fitting your predilection. This is not a slight to your proclivities -- nor is it, I might hasten to add, a slight on the sensibilities of the old white men that came before you and I.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    My favorite anthology of poetry ever put together. I just recommended it to a bookstore clerk yesterday in Utrecht, the Netherlands after buying Ariel. We started talking about Plath and Hughes and I suggested this anthology! Thankfully I had to get it in college for a class otherwise I wouldn't have known about it. I have referenced it many times since then. One of the best. More people should read it! My favorite anthology of poetry ever put together. I just recommended it to a bookstore clerk yesterday in Utrecht, the Netherlands after buying Ariel. We started talking about Plath and Hughes and I suggested this anthology! Thankfully I had to get it in college for a class otherwise I wouldn't have known about it. I have referenced it many times since then. One of the best. More people should read it!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alice Renaud

    This is an unusual collection of poems. The authors seems to have roamed the world, collecting random poems that they like. The result is great, a mix of the well known and classic, and the quirky, obscure, but lovely, or funny. I have discovered many poets thanks to this book that I would otherwise not have heard about.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Crompton

    A most unusual poetry anthology. Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes have selected familiar poems, obscure poems, poems from the oral tradition, and songs. After rejecting chronological or thematic arrangement, they effectively randomized the poems by arranging them alphabetically by title. I enjoyed revisiting the familiar poems and discovering some wonderful new ones.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lady Poe

    A great collection of poems; an introduction to various poets and their works. I really enjoyed the poems written about animals/birds etc. A great deal of knowledge hidden in such poems; linguistically intriguing and exciting. I would recommend this if you want to begin reading poetry and appreciate its literary value, craftsmanship and a hell of a lot of imagery transcending time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Flexnib

    One I will return to frequently.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    underwhelming

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tawanda

    Now the second best book i own. After War & Peace

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chrissy

    Some you'll like, some you won't, like all poetry, like all people, like all life Some you'll like, some you won't, like all poetry, like all people, like all life

  24. 5 out of 5

    Turnlung

    Raised my children on this book. Timeless.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Agnew

    Revisiting an old book. Some lovely poems, some so so and some bloody awful!

  26. 4 out of 5

    E. Merrill Brouder

    Would not recommend except to the avid fan of light verse– if such a reader exists.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Pearson

    A great book to leave in the toilet!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kai

    Poems from Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to contemporary poets. Absolutely beautiful anthology, just wish more women poets were included.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah (needs a break from reviewing)

    Poetry's just not for me. Going in the donation box. Poetry's just not for me. Going in the donation box.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John Keith

    Indispensable and a wonderful companion.

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