One notable aspecft of Anne Stevenson’s Collected is that it explodes any sense of chronology. Poems are mixed across decades with no indication of where they come from. Short thread. 1/8
Other poets have done this too, such as Derek Mahon, though when they do one often suspects a subtext (‘like my later poems as much as you like the early stuff’). 2/8
This would hardly work though for poets who radically change their style after a jejune start, e.g. Adrienne Rich. 3/8
I’ve seen Collecteds that start with the latest (Allen Curnow’s), perhaps out of embarrassment at immature early poems. It’s tempting (not least if your early stuff is as woeful as mine). 4/8
But what about poets who change publisher mid-career, e.g. Alice Oswald. Would Picador buy out her old copyrights? Would Faber do a Collected Early Poems (would she consent?)? 5/8
Then you have rewriters like Auden and Moore. And then you have poets who never reach the Collected stage. Why no Collected Markham or Brathwaite? Some obvious answers there, unfortunately (how many Collecteds by BAME poets do you own?). 6/8
Then you have poets whose unpublished stuff is not just good but fantastic, but a lot of WS Graham’s. And then you have poets whose unpublished stuff is more hit-and-miss (Larkin), bulking out a previously thin Collected but not to its advantage. 7/8
Which leaves the ‘vanilla’ Collected. Does anyone still do that – a straight chronological rerun of books published, text unaltered? This concludes my morning thoughts on Collected Poems. Collected Poemses. 8/8
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