Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Notable Omissions

I was at the library yesterday and checked out Graeme Gibson's Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany. It's a gorgeously designed book and looks to be a very well assembled anthology. But there's one glaring omission: no John Clare. How you can put together a book like this--particularly one whose royalties go towards supporting a bird observatory--and leave Clare out, I can't fathom.

One fine thing in the book is P.K. Page's chillingly beautiful poem "Only Child":

Which brings me to another case of notable omissions. Yesterday, The Essential P.K. Page came across my desk. "Only Child" is not included. Nor are "The Stenographers"--probably Page's most anthologized poem, tho also, oddly, left out of her quite large Selected, Planet Earth, by Eric Ormsby--and the stunning "Photos of a Salt Mine" (also left out by Ormsby, which makes me wonder to what extent the editors of the Essential built their book from Ormsby's selection, rather than from the Collected Page and the volumes that followed it; there are two excerpts from her recently published autobiography in verse, Hand Luggage, so the editors have strayed from Ormsby's selection somewhat, at least). Any selection of Page's lapidary oeuvre is worth reading, and I certainly will read it, but I'm scratching my head over these editorial decisions. But, as this article suggests, Page is a tricky poet to anthologize (an essential collection is basically an expanded anthology pick) and the exclusion of these former favourites might be a reaction to earlier editors' choices. But, since Lampert and Gray have decided to forgo an introduction, saying that Page's poetry needs none, one can only speculate as to their motives.

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