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First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems That Captivated and Inspired Them Paperback – Bargain Price, April 20, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (April 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684864398
  • ASIN: B004JZWVWW
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,822,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1996 the editor of the journal of the Poetry Society of America asked several poets to write about their first verse loves. So inspiring were their responses that the feature became a series, and now we are lucky enough to have 68 contributions in book form. Surely every poet in First Loves hopes that his or her choice will increase that work's audience; some even cheat and include several other objects of affection while they're at it. John Hollander, for instance, gets in everyone from Robert Louis Stevenson to A.A. Milne to Rudyard Kipling to James Weldon Johnson before settling on James Hogg's "A Boy's Song." Similarly, Elizabeth Macklin tells us, "It depends how far back you want to go," giving herself the chance to tout Frost, Lorca, and Countee Cullen en route to anointing Auden's wistful villanelle "If I Could Tell You."

Though they range from the serious to the whimsical (Billy Collins begins with "My first love was a tall, thin brunette named "The Flea" by John Donne that I met when I was in college"), most entries stress their choice's power and mystery, its ability to transform, console, and enchant. Some contributions are short and sweet. A.R. Ammons's single paragraph allows John McCrae's "In Flanders Field" the starring role it deserves. Ditto for Richard Howard's two sentences on Browning's "My Last Duchess." On the other hand, Eavan Boland's six paragraphs preceding Yeats's "The Wild Swans at Coole" set her moment of discovery at 15, and also manage to encompass what's past, passing, and to come.

Of course, singling out some for high praise is to omit many inspired and inspiring others. Readers will be struck, for instance, by Wanda Coleman's choice of Lewis Carroll's classic: "Perhaps because when he freed Alice in the mirror, he also freed my imagination and permitted me to imagine myself living in an adventure, sans the restraints of a racist society." "Jabberwocky" also figures in Joyce Carol Oates's and Lawrence Raab's entries, and one of the delights of reading First Loves is seeing which poets pop up more than once. As several make clear, Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses merits a grown-up audience too. There are of course Yeats and Auden, Wordsworth and Dickinson, but also the now unsung Alfred Noyes and Swinburne. If anyone can rescue the latter from neglect, it will be Ursula LeGuin: "Some might consider this like a thirteen-year-old finding that Southern Comfort tastes nice. (Get that away from her! Quick! Pour it out!) But Swinburne took me past story, past meaning, into the pure music of the word."

In many ways, Carmela Ciuraru's anthology is a subversive plea for the power of control, discipline, and study. These artists have spent endless hours with their forebears, and know that their vocation requires discipline and knowledge in addition to inspiration. Heather McHugh is clearly none too happy that one of her graduate charges "asked in class just who was this John Donne I kept mentioning." Yet First Loves both prods and delights, and the participating poets have planted a very adult garden of verses. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

The Washington Post A funny and provocative collection of short essays about falling in love with words. -- Review

More About the Author

Carmela Ciuraru is the author of NOM DE PLUME: A (SECRET) HISTORY OF PSEUDONYMS, forthcoming in hardcover from HarperCollins.

She has edited several anthologies for Alfred A. Knopf/Everyman's Library and for Scribner, including Solitude Poems, Motherhood Poems, Beat Poets, and First Loves. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, PEN American Center, and the Authors Guild, and has written for publications such as the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New York Observer, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, O, The Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Interview, Spin, Bookforum, and Tablet, and she writes a culture blog for ReadyMade.

You can visit her website at www.carmelaciuraru.com

[AUTHOR PHOTO CREDIT: Pieter M. van Hattem]

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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book. I heard a reading by several of the poets in First Loves read at Three Lives in NYC, and the room was transfixed. This book will open up so many doors to poems you may not have read, or read in years. Then it will make you think of the first time you fell in love with a poem, and eventually you'll be thinking about the first time you fell in love with a piece of music, a piece of art, and so on. Thanks to Carmella Ciuraru for conceiving of this wonderful collection, and to the poets for their honesty.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
From BOSTON REVIEW:
First Loves [is] a moving and intimate testimony... Ciuraru's anthology is a kiss of many valences, from the skyrockets of John Donne's "The Flea," (Billy Collins' pick) to the expansive playfulness of Wallace Stevens' "The Man on the Dump," (James Tate's pick) to the cultural fulchrum of Yeats' "The Wild Swans at Coole," (Eavan Boland's pick). And while it is impossible to typify the works collected here, the poem that perhaps most epitomizes the spirit of First Loves is Lewis Carroll's "Jaberwocky," a work of ebullient music and diction which perches on the edge of apprehension.  It's this fertile territory of "knowing before understanding" that many of the writers revisit, parsing the moment out in prose which is deeply considered, flush and inspiring.  In returning these poets to the source of their obsession, Ms. Ciuraru has managed the welcome trick of culling together an unassailable anthology. Page after page of guileless enthusiasm is, sooner or later, contagious, recommending First Loves to new readers of verse and the critically sophisticated alike.  For while the poems featured in this collection are (by frequent concession) uneven in quality, so too (by frequent concession) is first love.  It can be awkward and fumbling, but for these poets it is also the maiden scrape with the world that will define them.  Beneath the celebratory tone of these essays is the powerful undercurrent of self-recognition. -Sam White
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ciuraru asks 68 well-known poets, "What poem has haunted you, provoked you, obsessed you, made you want to speak back to it?" In response, each writer provides one example and a short essay. The results are at once magical and mundane[...] FIRST LOVES--intense, unsentimental--is a startling, inspirational anthology. -Ken Tucker
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Simply a series of short essays in which poets comment on the poems that first awakened them to poetry. Fortunately, the poets seem to have felt no need to be "poetic" in their essays, which are all fairly straightforward and insightful. The poems themselves are, of course, included as well. It's interesting to see the diversity of poems that others have found meaningful and to hear their explanations as to why: Two selected "Jabberwocky" to my mild surprise, while another selected "Suzane Takes You Down" and another selected a Rodgers & Hammerstein lyric. Others selected more obscure poems that I find it hard to believe anyone would regard as meaningful, but that's the charm of this book. The one who selected "For a Dead Kitten" ("How could this small body hold / So immense a thing as Death?") is my new Favorite Poet, even though I've never heard of her or read anything she's written.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michele T. Woodward on May 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Poetry can be inspiring, uplifting and daunting. This book, however, takes a tack which will inform even the most casual poetry reader. Editor Carmen Ciuraru asked writers to name the poem which inspired them to write -- so, in this handy volume, you get a short essay about a poem and then get a chance to read the poem itself. It includes a wide range of poets and poetic forms, from Yeats and Dickinson to Rilke and Williams. It's also fairly easy to read because you can select certain essays to read in one sitting. This is a perfect book for those who think they like poetry and don't exactly know where to start.
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