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"I Am": The Selected Poetry of John Clare Paperback – November 15, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though he has steadily furnished anthology pieces, and has been cited repeatedly by John Ashbery as an influence, only recently have scholars and critics, often inspired by Clare's stands on behalf of the poor and by his "green" perspectives on forests and fields, tried to launch him as a major poet. A passionate observer of rural England, and a poet of visionary, even hallucinatory, extremes, Clare (1793-1864) emerged from village poverty to modest success as a "peasant poet" before mental illness confined him to asylums, where he produced works for which there are few points of comparison. Distinguished British academic Bate (whose Clare biography will be published along with this edition) presents the first recent American edition of Clare aimed at nonacademic readers. He draws liberally from Clare's large oeuvre-from long poems, from Clare's most famous prose piece (a record of an eighty-mile foot journey)-and, in a controversial intervention, adds the punctuation, line-breaks and other emendations that Clare had explicitly expected to be part of his printed texts. The results are impressive, though a shorter selection might have made a better case for Clare's greatness: Clare's poems of the 1820s and '30s (the only ones published in books during his lifetime) follow their 18th-century models too closely, and often repeat themselves. Clare's asylum poems, however, sound like nothing else on earth. These include tightly wound cries against isolation and lost love; rigorously attentive descriptions of vulnerable badgers, fragile birds and displaced people; and even energetic long poems that Clare wrote as Lord Byron. Sort through the less-inspired couplets and discover a voice neglected in his lifetime, but impossible to forget once heard.
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From Booklist

Bate has made his own chronological selection of Clare's verse, titled after Clare's most famous poem written while institutionalized, to consult before and after as well as while reading his biography, John Clare. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (November 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374528691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374528690
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Gianmarco Manzione on June 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
The only thing more remarkable than John Clare's talent is that it has taken so long for it to receive the wider audience it deserves. Time and again in Jonathan Bate's appreciable but over-long biography we learn of great poems left to petrify in the dust of museums until "well into the twentieth century." That neglect alone qualifies as a disturbing testament to the cruelty with which some of literature's greatest geniuses flounder and fade under the rubble of history. Though Bate's recent biography is commendable in its success at introducing readers not just to Clare's complicated character, but also to the poet's technical, formal and linguistic ingenuity; he consistently describes poems in the biography that he chose not to include in this "Selected Poems." Most tragic is his decision not to include so many of the poems left out of the original published version of "The Rurual Muse." Moreover, to consider Bate's tantalizing description of some of the poems included in "The Rural Muse" along with his decision to leave them out of this Selected Poems is to encounter the strange misguidedness with which Clare's genius has been treated over the centuries. Writing of "Mary," the childhood love of Clare's life that haunted him into his grave, Bate says that "She is the subject of `The Milking Hour' which "recalls a final evening conversation with her, walking in a wheat field; and in `Nutting'" in which "Clare compares her auburn hair to the colour of ripe hazels, they shell nuts together, she flirtatiously throws the shells at him and then blushes when he pockets the husks as a keepsake." Yet neither poem can be found in this book.Read more ›
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By S. Hutton on October 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you have any claim to love of poetry please have a glance at this book. Reading Clare, when he's got it on, is like walking through the countryside of a land that no longer exists...but can still, in 2003, through many of these poems, be seen. I opened this book thinking to read for ten minutes or so but could not put it down...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bruno on August 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Underrated for so long as a result of the same English academic snobishness that leads intelligent people to deny that a homely man of Stratford-upon-avon could have written Hamlet, its good to see that John Clare is finally being recognised as the great poet that he was. Its often said that he was a consistantly good poet, without composing any real classic. Yet read the title poem 'I Am' a few times, learn of its context in the final admission of Clare into a lunatic asylum, and I defy you to remain unmoved by lines such as

'I long for scenes, where man has never trod,

A place where women never smiled or wept'.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By tepi on October 25, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everyone knows of Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan,' Keats' 'The Eve of St. Agnes,' and Shelley's 'Ozymandias.' These and other memorable poems of the Romantic period have been read and enjoyed by many and for very good reasons. Their authors were talented and accomplished writers whose poems bring us real pleasure.

If we think about it, however, we need to consider that these poems were written in the comfort of warm studies by fairly well-off bookish men whose sensibilities, certainly in the case of Coleridge and Shelley, had been formed by an education in the classics - by the study of Latin and Greek mythology and of Homer, Virgil, etc. - by, in short, the products of long-dead civilizations.

Clare, in complete contrast to these men, was far from comfortably well-off. As an uneducated farm laborer living in a cramped and drafty cottage his entire life was a struggle with poverty, ill health, and a multitude of other misfortunes. But this, ironically, was his great advantage.

Springing as he did from the common people, the English folk who were products of a still living and vital traditional culture, he exhibited, unlike many of his supposed 'betters,' a sensibility deeply rooted in the 'real' as opposed to what was merely fashionable, pretentious, and ultimately superficial.

His life, though one of poverty in one sense, was extremely rich in another since it was lived in contact with a vibrant folk culture and with the earth and its living creatures, things filled with a superabundant vitality in which he took great delight and which entered deeply into the fabric of his sensibility.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donal M on October 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was interested in this book and instead of buying the paperback version this time I decided to go for the Kindle edition. In return I got a single page with the poem " I Am" on it .!!!
Be very carefull I had assumed that Amazon were above this type of sleight of hand
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