This site is an invitation to read the best poems of wit in English. It is a sort of “greatest hits” collection comprising those works that, as a lifelong reader, I have found the most memorable and the most quotable. Also the most enviable. We wish we could have written them.
Many of the pieces in this compilation are great exemplary works in their use of extended metaphor. Also in their use of what T. S. Eliot has called metaphysical wit in his essay on the poetry of John Donne. So this is a weblog focusing on John Donne’s influence (also that of other classic wits) via Eliot and Auden and their modern literary inheritors.
My favorite poets of wit are:
– Sir Walter Raleigh in the 16th Century, also, of course, William Shakespeare;
– John Donne in the 17th century, also John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who was so outrageously irreverent;
– Jonathan Swift in the 18th century, also Robert Burns;
– George Gordon, Lord Byron, in the 19th century;
– And in modern times W. H. Auden, who restored so much of classicist discipline to modernism, plus John Crowe Ransom and Yvor Winters who taught the younger generations of poets so well;
– Also Karl Shapiro among the many good poets publishing during the Forties and Fifties post-war era, who were a “greatest generation” of ironists;
– W. D. Snodgrass and Robert Lowell in the Sixties and after;
– And in the late 20th century poets like Marilyn Hacker, formalists who were exploring the uses of verse forms and revivifying them.
I also love the masters of light verse, like R. S. Gwynn, like John Updike before him.
Of course, they are all here, just a poem or two from each, in my digital “copybook” of great works.
In assembling this online collection I am hoping to promote some discussion of witticism in poetry, and my essential point for discussion is that wit leavens the language of poetry with realism. It balances the flights of poetry’s eloquence with the realities of human struggles and downfalls. It thus gives poetry greater credibility and relevance.
This blog site is essentially a proposed print anthology in manuscript. It is “in process,” as well. I’m still crafting it. Many of its discussions of poems are currently being written and re-written. The manuscript is being organized and edited on the web. -MDM