This is a great anthology to get you into reading poetry if you don’t do it, or don’t do it as often as you’d like. It’s also a good one to bring more regular readers of poetry into contact with a wide range of authors, styles and forms.
As its title suggests, Poem for the Day is very simply organised with—well, with a poem for each day. On getting their hands on this book, most people immediately look up their birthday, then look slightly embarrassed about having done something so obvious. (Though I think, why wouldn’t you? According to this, I’m allocated Larkin, as we share a birthday; which fact sometimes seems horribly significant, when I’m in a darker mood). But once you’ve done your birthday, and the birthday of any significant others, and the cat’s birthday, and any anniversary days, you are left with a very simple way through the book: what day is it today? then that’s the poem I’ll read. No decisions to be made. And sometimes that’s very relaxing.
Accompanying each day’s poem there are a few morsels of poet- or poetry- related information. Thus I can tell you, for instance, that Hillaire Belloc was born on July 27th in St Cloud, near Paris. There are also very brief notes—three or four lines, usually—giving information about that day’s poem, or poet. For those of you who like biographical information about a writer, or about the situation in which a poem was created, this will probably prove very pleasing; I know it’s something people are often interested in, in the groups I facilitate. For me this sort of information can sometimes distract my attention from how I experience the poem, but I have learned that others find these snippets can be a useful way in. Either way, they’re clearly separated from the poems themselves, so can be ignored or forgotten if you’re not interested.
The poets and poems range from the very well known to the much less so: January alone includes Blake, Cope, Eliot, Shakespeare, Berryman, Auden, Browning, Yeats and Dickinson as well as Moorsom, Tonks and O’Dowd. The quality of the writing is consistently high, and the Editor has negotiated the territory between accessible/non-reductive/non-patronising really skilfully. You’ll meet things you know, and are heart-warmed to see again, and things you don’t, which just might expand your heart, in the way that great art does. You might well have a first meeting with a poet in this volume and find yourself with a whole new love (it’s how I started my relationship with ASJ Tessimond, for instance).
A final splendid thing about this volume is that it often turns up in second-hand and charity shops, so you can pick it up for a couple of quid. Except, of course, if you live in Kendal, ‘cos I’ll have already bought it to give to a friend. Sorry. Better luck next time.