Till I End My Song: A Gathering of Last Poems

Edited by Harold Bloom, Harper, $24.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-192305-0
Bloom may be the most famous poetry critic in the English language. As he approached his 80th birthday, he turned his critical faculties toward the subject of death: this surprisingly enjoyable anthology contains the last poems—or the poems that most profoundly contemplate "lastness"—by 100 poets, from Edmund Spenser (d. 1599) to Agha Shahid Ali (d. 2001). Bloom seeks to show, through his selections and commentaries on each poem, that death can be as much an inspiration as a terror. With their last breaths, these poets address God (as John Donne does: "Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,/ Which is my sin, though it were done before?"); future generations (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his "Epitaph," tells those who pass his gravestone, "Beneath this sod/ A poet lies" who "Found death in life" and who hopes to "find life in death!"); a vast public and private self (Frost said, "I opened the door so my last look/ Should be taken outside a house and book"). James Wright finds a new kind of life in the apprehension of his mortality: "How can I feel so warm/ Here in the dead center of January?" Throughout, Bloom's brief prose comments illuminate and entertain. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/20/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
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