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First published in February 1936, just under a year from when the idea for it was first discussed, this is one of the most important and influential anthologies of the twentieth century. Since then three further editions by, in succession, Anne Ridler, Donald Hall and Peter Porter have been published. All took as their kernel the original selection by Michael Roberts. This Faber Finds reissue restores that pristine selection.
More likely than not, the original idea was T. S. Eliot’s, the choice of editor was undoubtedly his, and it was an inspired one. Michael Roberts was a poet himself, and a good one, but more important for this task was his acute awareness of the poetry scene, and his sense of the modern movement within it. Yes, his purpose was tendentious. He excludes some poets he admires such as
Edmund Blunden and Walter de la Mare because (they) ‘seem to me to have written good poems without having been compelled to make any notable development of poetic technique.’ On the other hand, ‘I have included only poems which seem to me to add to the resources of poetry, to be likely to influence the future development of poetry and language . . .’ From the very start (and could there be a more arresting one?) with Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Wreck of the Deutschland Michael Roberts powerfully and consistently fulfils that aim.
Philip Hobsbaum, in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry, says of The Faber Book of Modern Verse, ‘it also encapsulates, as no other literary document quite does, the innovative quality of the 1930s.’
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