Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Literary Web

I think I've discovered a helpful aid in my quest to become more poetry-literate. It all started when I was looking through our big poetry anthology, Favorite Poems Old and New, in search of epigraphs for The Summer Country. As I turned the pages I kept coming upon poems and bits of poems that I liked, unrelated to the topics I was searching for, and wished I could mark them or write the titles down in order not to forget them. Liking a bit of poetry, and then forgetting when and where I read it and not being able to find it again, is rather a failing of mine. And then it suddenly came to me: I'd found the perfect use for this lovely little notebook from Victorian Trading Company that I received as a Christmas gift several years back. Its pages are old-fashioned brown paper, held together by the cord that laces up the binding, and altogether it's just too pretty and delicate for ordinary notebook use. But as a poetry book it's perfect. I've started filling the pages with whatever lines or passages catch my fancy as I read, and writing down lists of the titles of poems I particularly like so I can refer back to them at will.

I love poetry best when it's a thread in the web of literary cross-references. Right now I'm reading a wonderful novel, Thorofare by Christopher Morley, and an intriguing quotation within its pages sent me off in quest of the source. I found it was from Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," which I ended up reading and enjoying a good deal. But what's more, all throughout it I kept coming upon other lines and references familiar to me from their having appeared in other books I've read through the years. It's kind of like running into an old friend—or, more accurately, it's like seeing a familiar face in an old movie, discovering it actually belongs to a rather famous actor and saying, "Oh, so that's who that is!"

Coleridge and Co. might be a little underwhelmed by that analogy, but yes, that's what it's like.

6 comments:

Hamlette said...

Before I started a book-centric blog, I used prettiful books like this to record "Particularly Good Bits" from the books I read. Lines I wanted to remember, thought were beautiful or funny, etc. Perhaps I should do what you're doing now, and keep bits of favorite poetry in those books now that I just record favorite lines on my blog! Good idea!

Rachel Heffington said...

First thing: that anthology is my favorite.
Second: I love tracing alliterations like that! My sister and I went through a literature-based unit study on the Victorian Era called "Where the Brook and River Meet". It used Anne of G.G. as the main text. We bought the annotated A. Of G.G. abduction a book of poetry called "Anne's Anthology" which set me off with Tennyson, Whittier, Scott, and many more beautiful poets. Now I recognize so many references!

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Hamlette - In recent years I've used Goodreads' quote section and the highlight feature on my Kindle to save quotes I come across in reading, but maybe one day I'll copy them down like this too. Handier to reference without having to turn a computer on!

Rachel - We have Anne's Anthology too! I was just thinking yesterday I have to go through that one looking for epigraph material too. I liked it so much I wished they'd gone on and done another one for every book in the series—L.M. Montgomery was always quoting or referencing poetry, and it was such fun finding out where Anne's came from.

Rachel Heffington said...

"Cobbler Keezar's Vision" was one of my favorites and of course "Edinburgh after Flodden"...
"News of battle, news of battle,
Hark! 'Tis ringing down the street,
and the archways and the pavements
bear the rush of hurrying feet..."
GAH. Chills.

Hamlette said...

I'd never heard of "Anne's Anthology" before, but it sounds so wonderful, I've ordered a copy right now!

Hannah Scheele said...

Nice. I like poetry anthologies, when I have time for them. Sometimes I run into old ones based on a theme--like Love, or Humor or something--that are really entertaining!