Recommended by John Skoyles , John Skoyles ,

Ecco’s much earlier anthology Another Republic: 17 European and South American Writers (1976), edited by Charles Simic and Mark Strand, brought important poets to the attention of North American readers. The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry’s vast and sweeping ambition covers much more territory, providing work based on one criterion, “the quality of the poem in English,” according to Kaminsky’s introduction. The result is almost five hundred pages of poetry, an incomparable collection of poets whose work has never been fully available in English or, in many cases, is sadly out of print. Some are familiar, but essential, such as Bishop and Strand’s Carlos Drummond de Andrade; Merwin’s Neruda; Simic’s Popa; Keeley and Sherrard’s Cavafy. Others are almost impossible to find in English: Edith Sodergran; and many have scarcely seen print previously in English.

The poems are arranged “in chronological order of one hundred years,” and not by country of birth or by language. Kaminsky made this choice because of “hundreds of Hindi poets writing in Pakistan, Yiddish poets writing around the globe,” and because of the many who wrote in more than one language. At first, this arrangement is unsettling, but continued reading brings the element of surprise. In this way, it recalls the delight Heaney and Hughes gave us in The Rattle Bag, where the poems ran alphabetically by title, allowing the reader to read the works as works alone, without regard to history or biography. The Ecco Anthology does that but still provides a focus: by starting with Tagore and ending with poets born in the late seventies and early eighties, the reader is given a sense of the entire twentieth century.

Kaminsky and Harris have done a first-rate job of bringing a literal world of poets together.


Review: The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry ( March 2010 )

Winter 2010-11 Cover
Poetry & Fiction

Guest-edited by:
Terrance Hayes
Terrance Hayes