Sunday, December 13, 2015

Lifesaving Poems

Lifesaving Poems
Edited by Anthony Wilson
Bloodaxe Books $28.00 (paper)

Poet Anthony Wilson's anthology grew out of his love for poetry and his fear of losing it during his cancer treatment in 2006. He has published four books of poetry and a memoir, but this is his only anthology consisting of poems originally posted on his blog ( and before that copied into a moleskin notebook. He quotes Bart Simpson “C’mon people, this poetry ain’t gonna appreciate itself.” Wilson wondered, after hearing Seamus Heaney in an interview wonder out loud, how many poems would affect a person across a lifetime. He set out to find those poems in his own life. His choices, collected in eight sections, include ninety-one poems by ninety-one poets who are as well-known as Sylvia Plath, John Ashbery, and Mary Oliver but also include Wislawa Szymborska and Anonymous. The poems are the ones that Wilson found inspiring, not necessarily the most famous or known as the best of an individual poet’s work. Yet, they have the capacity to speak to anyone who appreciates poetry because of the universality of the poems as well as the individuality of the selection. Each poem is presented in its entirety with publication notes as well an explanation of how Wilson came across the poem and what it meant to him. In the presentation of  “Tides” by Hugo Williams, Wilson says he remembers exactly where he was when he first read the poem.  That’s often the case with the ones that move us, as it is for me and I suspect for many of us with Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey”, included in the final section: “We’re still here”.  We are “determined to do/ the only thing you could do/ determined to save/ the only life you could save.”


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