Monday, August 27, 2012

Review of "Collected Poems of Henry Thoreau" Edited Carl Bode

Henry David Thoreau is a name known to many.  But with good reason, it’s not for his poetry.  A far better prose stylist than poet, Thoreau nevertheless dabbled in the medium many times in his life, scattering verse here and there throughout his extensive journals and notebooks.  Collected for the first and only time, Collected Poems of Henry  Thoreau is the more abstract side of the renowned philosopher and naturalist.

As one would expect, nature, transcendence, and personal reflection take center stage in Thoreau’s poetry.  Though seeming he would be a better writer of free verse, Thoreau nevertheless limits himself to rhyme and meter, form exhibited in all of Bode’s selections.  Thus, the same painstaking care with which Thoreau went about writing prose is evident in his verse.  Words and phrases are carefully selected, but unfortunately most often to meet the demands of closed verse rather than expression.  Several selections stand out, but overall the collection is a bit tedious; there is a reason Thoreau is known for his prose.

In the end, Collected Poems of Henry Thoreau is recommended only for completists, scholars, or enthusiasts of the natural philosopher.  Nothing spectacular about the collection, the selections merely support his prose work rather than inform it.  Moments of beauty do exist, but by in large expectations for the work to be as profound or touching as Walden, The Maine Woods, etc. should be kept to a minimum.

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