BOOK REVIEW: William Blake: Selected Poems ed. Paul Butter

Selected PoemsSelected Poems by William Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon doesn’t carry this edition.

So, e-Bay

Blake’s “The Tyger” is one of my favorite poems, and one of the few that I’ve bothered to memorize. Even if the words made no sense, they sound beautiful together, but not only do they make sense they forge powerful imagery. Blake wrote many poems that managed to be both pleasing to the ear and meaningful.

This collection consists of about 80 poems and fragments (of longer poems) that are pulled from Blake’s collections. Much of Blake’s work is about nature, though the worlds of man and the divine also feature prominently. With respect to the human world, poems about children are particularly common. Most of the poems and partials fit on a single page or two, but some are as short as a four-line stanza and others are as long as a dozen pages.

The compiler of the poems, Peter Butter, doesn’t feel the need to pile in rambling prologues and introductions—a plus in my opinion. The only ancillary matter consists of two timelines: one of Blake’s life, and one of with key events that happened over the course of his life. I will say that these two timelines are confusingly arranged in the edition that I read. They are two pages each, with the pages of each facing each other. So, as one flips, one reads a page of life history, one of world history, one of Blake’s history, and one of world history. Either rearrangement of pages or formatting changes would fix this right up.

This is a great little collection with which to get a taste for Blake. I’d recommend it for those who want some of his classics and some others, but without the need to wade through unabridged collection—in case he turns out to not be your cup of tea.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lines from the collection: “Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,”

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