This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.
Believe it or not, that's Ogden Nash. With all that restraint and stillness, gentleness and simplicity, that's really, truly Nash. I've read a decent degree of Nash. Or so I'd thought till I stumbled upon this one in a lovely anthology of a hundred passionate love poems that I denied and protested my way into for a Christmas present.
The selections range from early 15th century anonymous and raunchy poetry to G.M. Hopkins, Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas, and Stevie Smith. There's also John Donne, Robert Graves, and William Blake. All in all, a reasonably wide and distinguished circle of choice.
However, some selections are not the best ones for specific poets. For example, the Robert Herrick entry is Upon Julia's Clothes. Surely you're joking, Mr Briggs!
For a poet like Herrick who wrote predominantly about sexuality, or more accurately the erotic, in love, this is a dismal, disappointing choice. Indeed, anyone who's ever read more than To The Virgins... knows that a large number of Herrick's other works are more worthy of inclusion than this one.
I have the same complaint about the Philip Larkin, which I should inform you is Annus Mirablis. I also have some gripes about the general politics of anthologising and perception—Briggs should have put in some other poets, more women poets, blah, blah.
Despite having grumbled my way here, I should also say I love the book—not only for the wonderful, if sometimes misguided, selection of poems but also for the superb production quality. The illustrations, by Suzanna Hubbard, are simplistic but beautiful, and printed on paper that's a pleasure to slide through your fingers.
Let me share this with you then, another beautiful gem from the same book.
i like my body
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh . . . . And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly i like the thrill
of under me you quite so new
I was an impressionable teenager when I decided that e e cummings was magnificently sublime and had written one of the greatest love poems ever. How could I not, confronted with such desire?
Eight years later, after experiencing this particular poem e vestigio, I find that I don't think much differently.