From Harold Bloom, the foremost literary critic of our time, comes a delightful anthology of the final works of great poets. In Till I End My Song, Bloom has meticulously curated the last poems of one hundred influential poets. These poems, sometimes the literal end and other times the imagined conclusion to a poetic career, offer a lens through which to contemplate the enduring nature of art and the inevitability of death. Bloom's selections highlight the work of the canonized poets T. S. Eliot, Alexander Pope, W. B. Yeats, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and William Shakespeare, but also revive interest in distinguished but long-neglected poets, such as Conrad Aiken, William Cowper, Edwin Arlington Robinson, George Meredith, and Louis MacNeice. An authoritative collection of last poems, Till I End My Song will reverberate long into the coming silence.
Bloom may be the most famous poetry critic in the English language. As he approached his 80th birthday, he turned his critical faculties toward the subject of death: this surprisingly enjoyable anthology contains the last poems--or the poems that most profoundly contemplate "lastness"--by 100 poets, from Edmund Spenser (d. 1599) to Agha Shahid Ali (d. 2001). Bloom seeks to show, through his selections and commentaries on each poem, that death can be as much an inspiration as a terror. With their last breaths, these poets address God (as John Donne does: "Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,/ Which is my sin, though it were done before?"); future generations (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his "Epitaph," tells those who pass his gravestone, "Beneath this sod/ A poet lies" who "Found death in life" and who hopes to "find life in death!"); a vast public and private self (Frost said, "I opened the door so my last look/ Should be taken outside a house and book"). James Wright finds a new kind of life in the apprehension of his mortality: "How can I feel so warm/ Here in the dead center of January?" Throughout, Bloom's brief prose comments illuminate and entertain. (Oct.)