cover image Bartlett's Words for the Wedding

Bartlett's Words for the Wedding

Aimee Kelley, Brett Fletcher Lauer, . . Little, Brown, $15.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-316-01696-4

What to read at a wedding, your own or a friend's? What poetry—or poetic prose—will fit the particular couple tying the knot, describe their love clearly without undue sappiness and suit the guests, who may—or may not—read poems for pleasure at home? Brides, grooms, parents, officiants, groomsmen and bridesmaids confront these questions every day; this anthology, assembled by a husband-and-wife team of poets, scours the canon and its fringes for answers. Lauer and Kelley (Isn't It Romantic , 2004) include expectable nuptial greatest hits—sonnets by Shakespeare, Cummings and E.B. Browning, prose from Rilke and the Song of Songs—but much of their inventive, eclectic collection has the power to surprise: clear and charming contemporary verse from Pam Rehm, Lisa Jarnot and Timothy Donnelly, for example; translations from Chinese and Korean; and little-known Renaissance poems, including an absolute stunner from Michael Drayton. Passages from some long poems appear out of context, and a few poems seem unlikely to suit most weddings. Overall, though, Lauer and Kelley have kept utility and accessibility in mind: they've produced a collection with pleasures for readers and obvious, practical use. Few anthologists can say as much. (Jan.)