The missing poetry

  • Sumo

I recently read The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker. It’s full of discussions of poetry – for the narrative voice is of a man, a poet, who continually defers writing the introduction to an anthology of poems he edited.

Lots of poets get a mention, as well as arguments about if poems need to rhyme (this is a theme of the anthology the narrator is working on). A week or so after I finished reading the novel, I realised that there’s a huge pile of non-rhyming poetry that did not rate a single mention. Important and influential poetry, too. Here’s a little review/reflection I wrote about the novel:

Wonderfully written tale of the narrator trying to convince himself he’s not a poet (and that life is not poetic?). He fails (even if life does not always have the desired meter and rhyme).

Like poetry, the novel does not try to tie up all the threads neatly into easy meaning.

One thing troubles me, however. In a book that frequently discussed the origins non-rhyming poetry, there’s not a single reference to biblical poetry.

For centuries the psalms have been read, chanted and sung. They don’t rhyme in English (just as they don’t in Hebrew). Their use has been both wide and deep.Their influence is profound (we accept the effects of the King James Version on worldwide English).

Why nothing on the Bible and poetry? I suspect it’s an appearance of the usual secularistic blind spot ‘I have dispensed with God stuff, therefore God stuff is not relevant to our world or culture.’