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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

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Gareth L. Powell
Progress: 249/792 pages
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The Complete Plays and Poems
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Gravitation (Physics Series)
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By Heart, Ted Hughes (Ed.)

By Heart - Ted Hughes

I don't really need another general anthology of poetry in English, so why did I buy this book?


Because Ted Hughes was the editor, of course! I wanted to know what he had to say about memorising poetry and I wanted to know what his choices would be. These aren't necessarily his 101 top-faves ever, considering that they were chosen as being particularly amenable to the technique he describes in the introduction for learning them "by heart" but plainly he wasn't going to choose a bunch of pieces he thought were rubbish. There are two much bigger anthologies chosen by him and Seamus Heaney, The Rattlebag and The School Bag, but with those it's hard to say which were chosen by whom and how much overlap in choice there was. So this is about as close as we'll ever get to an insight into Hughes' personal taste - and that's what I was after.


The memorisation technique he describes is similar to other ones I've heard that rely on converting words to some other thing - in this case visual images - that is supposed to be easier to remember but I can't actually say I'm sufficiently interested in memorising even my most favourite poems to be bothered to try it out. Colour me lazy. I wish I had come across it in school, though, where it would have been useful for a number of purposes.


Most of the poems selected are very famous and are pieces I had read before at one time or another. I note down the titles and page numbers of favourite poems in a volume on a bookmark that is blank on at least one side that then stays in my copy permanently. Looking at the list from this book, most of my favourites were already familiar but there were some new discoveries.


Some of these 101 were particularly striking in their present context, i.e. in relation to Hughes' own poetry e.g. animal poetry and nature observation in general and WW1 poems, others were delightful surprises; it's greatly pleasing to me that Hughes loved Jabberwocky, too.


There are more comprehensive general anthologies out there, an abundance of them, so I think you should chose this one only for one of three reasons; you want a physically small one (hardly an issue for people with e-readers), you like the idea of memorising the poems or you're keen enough on Ted Hughes to want it for the same reason I did - a little extra insight into the man.