#1: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WILL NOT BE TELLING YOU. “Classic” is a terrible epithet to slap on a book: it ends up on somebody’s Lifetime Reading Program or one of those other canons people are always firing off. My own notes are going to be entirely random and subjective, but if you are looking for a guide to the best, a checklist of the biggies, I recommend Classics Revisited, by Kenneth Rexroth. Rexroth was a California poet—he organized the famous Six Gallery reading which launched the Beat movement—as well as a translator, essayist and reader of world-ranging voracity. This book gives essays on sixty classics ranging from Gilgamesh to Chekov, with suggestions for the best translations of foreign-language works. Unlike most such efforts, it is lively, beautifully written and genuinely exciting. There is a second volume, More

Classics Revisited, and both are in print from New Directions.

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#204. LUCILLE CLIFTON. In the manner of musicians deciding on the order of songs on an album, poets can put considerable work into the arrangement of a new collection, hoping that the pieces will pl

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#202: LEOPARDI. Yeats translated these lines from Sophocles: “Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say; / Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have looked into the eye of day; / T