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The typical Everyman's Library Pocket Poets offering collects all of one writer's poems that a well-rounded reader should know. Occasionally, though, an original, topical anthology crops up. This is one, and it's not to be missed. The accent is on light verse--no surprise: after all, who doesn't feel lighthearted after a good feed or tipple?--from John Updike's "Food" ("Man's real best friend. / It doesn't bite back") in the first section, "Plain Food," to Richard Wilbur's "A Voice from under the Table," which closes the last section, "Liquor Is Quicker," with the floored observations of a cultivated sot. Each poem pertains to its section's topic, and the topics include, besides those already mentioned, "Square Meals," "Fruit," "Vegetables," "Delicatessen," "The Food of Love," and "Feasting and Fasting." Ancient Greeks and Romans, Sufi mystics, classical Chinese and Japanese, medieval Europeans, lusty seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English realists, comic Romantics (Byron, Hood, Thomas Moore), plenty of moderns, and song lyricists (Coward, Porter) all contribute, and despite the richness of the fare, you won't need a digestive. Ray Olson
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Eating and drinking and the rituals that go with them are at least as important as loving in most people's lives, yet for every hundred anthologies of poems about love, hardly one is devoted to the pleasures of the table. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry abundantly fills the gap.
All kinds of foods and beverages are laid out in these pages, along with picnics and banquets, intimate suppers and quiet dinners, noisy parties and public celebrations?in poems by Horace, Catullus, Hafiz, Rumi, Rilke, Moore, Nabokov, Updike, Mandelstam, Stevens, and many others. From Sylvia Plath's ecstatic vision of juice-laden berries in "Blackberrying" to D. H. Lawrence's lush celebration of ?Figs,? from the civilized comfort of Noel Coward?s ?Something on a Tray? to the salacious provocation of Swift?s ?Oysters,? from Li Po on ?Drinking Alone? to Baudelaire on ?The Soul of Wine,? and from Emily Dickinson?s ?Forbidden Fruit? to Elizabeth Bishop?s ?A Miracle for Breakfast,? Eat, Drink, and Be Merry serves up a tantalizing and variegated literary feast.