The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, edited by J.D. McClatchy

     Ever since I discovered this book during PoetryGSO last April, I have checked it out off-and-on and even photocopied certain favorite poems to put on my bulletin board.  When I came across the book, one of the first poems I read in it has turned out to be one of my top five favorite poems (“Gifts” by Shu Ting).  So many of these poems are incredibly moving.  I read all of Pakistani poet Poetry Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poems out loud and I really felt the emotion of them. One took me from sadness, to anger, to tears as I read.  I read some of the same poems of his in a different book, and the translation did not come across as powerful to me.  A fellow librarian, Belinda Lam, is from China and when I asked her to find Shu Ting’s poem in Chinese, she even commented to me that the English translation of the poem in this book is very good.  So, it seemed to me that this book’s editor did a good job of picking translations. Upon reading the introduction to the book, I discovered that many of the translators are themselves poets, perhaps that is why.  There are poems from well-known poets such as Pablo Neruda, but many of them are by poets I have never heard of.  The editor’s goal in choosing the poems for this anthology was to pick ones that come from the experience of individuals, private experience that he says “transcends the personal.”  To me, it is always powerful to read the words of someone from a different culture that resonate with feelings that I have felt myself.  That happened to me often while reading this book.  I don’t buy many books anymore, since I can always check them out from my place of work.  But this book, I would love to have on my bookshelf at home. 

(Heidi Schachtschneider Cary, Information Services)

2 Responses

  1. I, too, consider this hefty and in-many-ways-definitive volume of poetry from around the world to be quite a treasure. Rich in its delicious assortment of poems from various places and cultures around the globe, this is the sort of book one can literally pick up and begin reading at any given (even random!) page, in that there is so much of a wealth of diverse stories spun, perspectives explored, themes and poetic styles and subject matter seemingly unlimited!
    I am also a huge fan of some of the other voluminous poetry anthologies in this series (such as The Vintage Book of African-Amerian Poetry and … ditto: Contemporary American Poetry), but this particular one, I agree Heidi, can be a real treasure trove insofar as gleaning insight into some of the poems being written, the ideas and issues explored, and the distinctive voices (and personalities) which pour forth such poetries – among an illuminating range of cultures, ethnicities, regions of the world we all share.
    There’s a lot to be said for that, I do believe!
    This book is never too far from my hands when at home (myself being a rather enthusiastic student of contemporary and modern poetry from the worldover – in Engligh translation) – and I heartily suggest anybody out there who might be intrigued (or even who might not be 😉 to check-out this wonder of an anthology. Each page beckons with possibility. Some so gorgeous; some so heart-wrenching … Enjoy!
    I, too, am employed with GPL (at the Kathleen Clay branch), though I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you yet, Heidi. But any fan of a book as this is a friend of mine! ‘Tis great, too, for beating the post-poetry month blues.
    Jonah M.

  2. Jonah,

    Wow am I slow at realizing there are comments on my book blogs! What a wonderful description you wrote of this book. Very nice to know of a fellow appreciator. I have this book in my hands whilst doing the PoetryGSO display here at Central Library. I still haven’t purchased my own copy. That’s what so great about libraries, they keep your books for you!


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