What I Read... & Remembering The Waste Land

I'm coming down to my final grad school days and today I put together my final bibliography for my file. A few of you have asked what I read, I'll post my entire bibliography below. Yes, I own every one one of these books including the pricy $25 Norman Dubie book, which you may see on eBay soon, I own every book except for one--Dylan Thomas. I checked that one out from the library and actually, I'm glad about that. No offense to Mr. Thomas, maybe when I read it the clouds were out of order, who knows, but I didn't quite get find it to my taste. Dubie's first book either--though I've heard he disowned it.

Some of the books were for my critical paper, "Including Laughter: The Use of Humor by Contemporary Women Poets." Some were not even books, a few articles, one interview I did. One was even by a fellow poet-blogger (Oliver de la Paz)-- great book, btw.

Some of the books explored poets I read as an undergrad, but in the space of being twenty-one, I didn't quite appreciate them. Eliot's "Waste Land" falls into this category. How I remember my professor at the UW singing, O O O O that Shakespearean Rag. We studied every footnote, going through that poem was like moving a stick through molasses, we were never done! And though there were parts I loved, I resented all the references--My gawd, I thought, just write the poem.

When I read "The Waste Land" fifteen years later, Sharon Bryan, who I was working with, had me listen to the poem before I read it. Not once or twice, but as many times as I could. She told me not to look at the notes at all. She wanted me to listen and "absorb" the poem. (If you're interested, you can actually listen to T. S. Eliot reading the whole poem online. Here's the link). I found myself reciting it in Eliot's strange faux-English accent (sort of how Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow talk as if they both aren't really from the East Coast)--"A-prel is za crooolest munth, breeeding ly-lax out of-the-ded lahnd." And I enjoyed the poem much more this way, not stopping to read a footnote, just listening.

When I did read the full poem, I read The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound. Looking over my essay I wrote about it, I had forgotten about this little gem I found when I first started looking at the original draft of the poem and Ezra Pound's revisions--

Reading “The Waste Land,” I was interested in the edits and notes Ezra Pound made on the original draft. The earlier draft was much longer than the final draft of the poem. One place that had an evident change was in Eliot’s original beginning for “The Waste Land.” In the original draft Eliot began the poem with, “First we had a couple of feelers down at Tom’s place. . .” This stanza continues on for fifty-four lines; the entire section was not used. Eliot began his poem on his second page with the opening we know today: “April is the cruellest month, breeding/lilacs out of the dead land… (I bolded how many lines just so you didn't skip over it.)

Can you imagine "The Waste Land" beginning with, “First we had a couple of feelers...?" Hello, McFly. It amazed me and then reminded me just how important revision is as well as an honest friend.

Also, regarding the notes, I found Eliot's interesting response to them in The Norton Critical Edition of Eliot’s The Waste Land, where he writes:

The notes to The Waste Land! I had at first intended only to put down all the references for my quotations, with a view to spiking the guns of critics of my earlier poems who had accused me of plagiarism. Then when it came to print The Waste Land as a little book—for the poem on its first appearance in The Dial and in The Criterion had no notes whatever—it was discovered the poem was inconveniently short, so I set to work to expand the notes, in order to provide a few more pages of printed matter, with the result that they became the remarkable exposition of bogus scholarship that is still on view to-day. I have sometimes thought of getting rid of these notes; but now they can never be unstuck. They have almost a greater popularity than the poem itself…

And to think in college I just thought Eliot had a big ego... Anyway, all intriguing to us poets.

Now, for the list of what I read for school (and wrote about and cried about, and, and, and...)--

Andrews, Nin. The Book of Orgasms. Cleveland: Cleveland State University Poetry
Center, 2000.

Barreca, Regina. The Penguin Book of Women’s Humor. New York: Penguin, 1996.

---. They Used to Call Me Snow White…But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic
Use of Humor
. New York: Viking, 1991.

Barresi, Dorothy. Rouge Pulp. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002.

Bell, Marvin. Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2000.

Berryman, John. The Dream Songs. New York: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 1969.

---. Homage to Mistress Bradstreet and other poems. New York: Noonday Press, 1948.

Bishop, Elizabeth. The Complete Book of Poems: 1927-1979. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983.

Brooks, Gwendolyn. Selected Poems. New York: Harper Perennial, 1999.

Ciuraru, Carmela. First Loves – Poets Introduce the Essential Poems That Captivated and Inspired Them. New York: Scriber, 2000.

Clifton, Lucille. Blessing the Boat. Rochester: BOA Editions, Ltd., 2000.

---. Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980. Rochester: BOA
Editions, Ltd., 2000.

de la Paz, Oliver. Names Above Houses. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001.

DeFrees, Madeline. Blue Dusk, New & Selected Poems, 1951-2001. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2001.

Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems edited by Thomas H. Johnson. New York: Bayback Books/Little, Brown and Co., 1961.

Dresner, Zita and Nancy Walker. Redressing the Balance: American Women’s Literary
Humor from Colonial Time to the 1980’s
. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1988.

Dubie, Norman. The Alehouse Sonnets. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1971.

Dudden, Arthur Power, ed. American Humor. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987.

Duhamel, Denise. Email interview. 7 Oct. 2006.

---. Kinky. Alexandria: Orchises Press, 1997.

Eliot. T. S. The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1971

Gluck, Louise. The First Four Books of Poems. New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1980.

---. The Wild Iris. New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1992.

Goodeve, Thyrza Nicholas. 1997. "The Art of Public Address," Art in America,
November, 93-99. Frankel, David. 1998.

Gregerson, Linda. Negative Capability. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press,

Hass, Robert. Field Guide. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973.

---. Praise. New York: Ecco Press, 1979.

Hoagland, Tony. Donkey Gospel. St. Paul: Graywolf Press, 1998.

---. Sweet Ruin. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.

---. What Narcissism Means To Me. St. Paul: Graywolf Press, 2003.

Hugo, Richard. Making Certain It Goes On – The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1984.

---. The Real West Marginal Way. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1986.

---. The Triggering Town – Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing. New York: W.W. Norton, 1979.

Ingersoll, Earl G., ed. Breaking the Alabaster Jar: Conversations With Li-Young Lee. Rochester: BOA Editions, Ltd., 2006.

Jarrell, Mary Van Schrader. Remembering Randall. New York: Harper Collins, 1999.

Jarrell, Randall. The Complete Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981.

---. The Lost World. New York: McMillan Publishing Co., 1965.

---. No Other Book. New York: Harper Perennial, 2000.

Kachuba, John B., ed. How to Write Funny: Add Humor to Every Kind of Writing.
Writer's. Digest Books, 2001.

Kane, Julie. “Getting Serious About Gail White’s Light Verse.” Mezzo Cammin 1.1

Kenyon, Jane. Otherwise. St. Paul: Graywolf Press, 1996.

Kirsch, Adam. The Wounded Surgeon: Confession & Transformation in Six American Poets: Lowell, Bishop, Berryman, Jarrell, Schwartz, Plath. New York: WW Norton & Co., 2005.

Lehman, John. America’s Greatest Unknown Poet: Lorine Niedecker. Cambridge: Wilde Publishing, 1998.

Levertov, Denise. Collected Earlier Poems, 1940-1960. New York: New Directions Book, 1979.

---. Poems 1968-1972. New York: New Directions Press, 1987.

Lowell, Robert. Selected Poems. New York: McGraw-Hill, Ryerson Ltd, 1976.

Lund, Elizabeth. “Poet Kay Ryan: A Profile.” Absolute Write "The Laughing Poet: Tell All the Truth But Tell It Screwy.

Plath, Sylvia. Ariel. New York: Harper Perennial, 1961.

Robertson, Connie, ed. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations, Wordsworth
Editions, Ltd. Hertfordshire, England, 1998.

Roethke, Theodore. The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. New York: Anchor Books, 1975.

---. On Poetry and Craft. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press

Schwartz, Delmore. Selected Poems: Summer Knowledge. New York: New Directions Publishing Corp., 1967.

Sexton, Anne. The Complete Poems. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s Sonnets Edited by Stephen Booth. New Haven: Yale University, 1977.

Simpson, Eileen. Poets in Their Youth: A Memoir. New York: Random House, 1982.

Stevens, Wallace. The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. New York: Vintage, 1990.

Syzmborska, Wislava. Poems New and Collected. New York: Harvest Book Harcourt Inc, 1998.

Thomas, Dylan. Collected Poems. New York: New Directions Books, 1971.

Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997.

Wallace, Ronald. God Be With The Clown: Humor in American Poetry. Columbia:
University of Missouri press, 1984.

Whitman, Walt. The Complete Poems. New York: Penguin Books, 1975.

Williams, Williams Carlos. Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems. New York: New Direction Books, 1962.

---. Selected Poems Edited by Charles Tomlinson. New York: New Direction Books, 1985.


  1. I want to read Homage to Mistress Bradstreet. How does it compare to The Dream Songs?

    I used to work at a medical transcription company and one of the transcriptionists was a distant relative of Bradstreet.

  2. I really enjoyed this post, Kelli. It's a fantastic list!

  3. V--

    I preferred and enjoyed the Dream Songs so much more than Bradstreet.

    Homage to M. Bradstreet is based on the life of Anne Bradstreet with Berryman conversing with her and eventually falling in love with her. It's a mix of history and embellishment in which he encounters and responds to the dead poet. Many critics loved this book, but I felt much more connected with Dream Songs--though I stumbled on the Mr. Bones character and ultimately his place in the poems. I've grown to understand it, but he was quite difficult for me to understand his purpose--(which ultimately was so that the reader could read these poems with this kicky aside guy, otherwise it feels as if Berryman has vomited his life across the page and as a reader, it's difficult to deal with.)

    I found my essay on the Dream Songs and I this was my first line:
    John Berryman’s The Dream Songs are hypnotic and lyrical. They possess a playfulness with language while dealing with subjects that are less playful like death, alcoholism, mental illness, and lust.

    I think it's "good" to read Homage just to have it in your poetic vocabulary, but it wasn't my favorite. Now that I've read all of Berryman's other work, I may go back and read it again to see if I appreciate it more.


    Thanks for the note. glad you like the list!


  4. I first read The Waste Land during my junior year in high school (1970-71). I found much of the description compelling, evoking scenes nicely, though I completely uncomprehending of the overall poem -- to this day, it remains a clouded mystery to me.

    I knew nothing of any of the literary sources Eliot quotes from or alludes to in the poem. Over the years as I've become familiar with some of the source poems and stories, that hasn't necessarily shed more light on Eliot's poem for me.

    I read The Waste Land sort of haphazardly over two or three days, when I found time in between classes, etc. (I wasn't reading it for a class, I was just reading it. I'd been writing poetry for a couple of years by then.) I finished the poem -- the last section, "What the Thunder Said" --
    on a Friday morning during a pep rally in the high school auditorium. The dry bleak landscapes and somber meditative groping of Eliot's poem, juxtaposed with cheerleaders leaping and shouting on the auditorium stage. Over the years, I've always felt that the poem and the pep rally, juxtaposed together, made ironic commentaries on each other.

    Also enjoyed the reading list, few of which I've actually read, or read in depth. I always enjoy how poets can come to poetry through such vastly different reading.

    One book on your list that I became curious about after you wrote something about it in your blog sometime back is Eileen Simpson's Poets in Their Youth. I tracked down a used copy, started reading it and couldn't put it down. Most of the poets the book talks about were still alive when I was first writing poetry, that middle generation of twentieth century American poets, the first generation really who found themselves ensconced in universities. I'd known very little of their lives and history, and loved all of the gaps the book filled in.

    Thanks for posting this.

  5. Lyle--Poets in teir Youth was a favorite of mine too. I find I get a better understanding of a poet when I learn about his/her life. I'm very opposite Elizabeth Bishop who says, "It's not the *poet* but the *poem.* To me the poem stands on its own if it's good, but as you said, connecting the gaps of their lives creates an even more fulfilling experience methinks.

    Thanks for your note.


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