Edited by: James Fenton
Publisher: Faber and Faber, 2008 (first published in 2006)
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“‘I have believed for a long time,’ says Michael Longley in a note to his own recent gathering, ‘that love poetry is at the core of the enterprise: if poetry is a wheel, then the hub of the wheel is love poetry.'”
James Fenton, a Whitbread-winning poet praised for his own love poetry, gathers together the best lyric poems originating in the English language. Ranging from the sixteenth century to the present day, The New Faber Book of Love Poems contains a fantastic mix of classics and popular favourites, as well as blues lyrics, American folk poetry, Elizabethan lyrics and Broadway songs. There are poems by men about women, women about men, men about men and women about women – in short, something for everyone, and a must-have for everyone’s bookshelf.
I received this book as a gift from someone who had remembered me telling them that I like reading love poetry. Since then I have dipped in and out of it for a number of reasons.
During my second year of uni, we had to put together a collection of poems, and this was the first book I consulted (alongside The Norton Anthology of Poetry). I put labels next to all the poems about same-sex love, because if I was going to compile a book of poems, it would be on the theme of LGBT love. I will include a list of all my marked poems at the end of this review.
Since I’ve had it, it’s been beside my bed on my ‘To be read’ bookshelf, but is kept there as reference. It was after I had been reading it on and off for a while that I decided to read it from beginning to end. The result was mixed: some poems I loved reading, and some I had to force myself to endure.
This anthology is ordered alphabetically by poet. So Fleur Adcock comes first, and we end with Yeats. I prefer poetry books to be in order of subject, because then I know what kind of poems I’ll be reading. Am I going to get old fashioned love? Modern love? Heartbreak? With this book, I’m getting the poet first and the poems second. I think I’d have enjoyed it the other way round.
I would say that I don’t like the inclusion of songs, because they are separate from poetry despite being a similar form. They are also difficult to read because they require a tune, they need music. But the reason I’m not going to condemn Fenton’s choice to include songs, is because one song section of the book is called ‘Lesbian Blues Lyrics of the 1920s’ and for that reason it was one of my labelled sections. That’s not to say I enjoyed reading the songs (I’m not a fan of blues) but I have to be pleased that they were included.
This book also contains poems that have since become favourites, and without this book I might not have discovered them.
I don’t think this collection is by any means definitive, but it’s a good one for any fan of love poetry.
❤️ My 5 Love Poetry Picks:
- Any Little Fish – Noel Coward
- So bashful when I spied her! – Emily Dickinson
- Valentine – John Fuller
- My true love hath my heart, and I have his – Sir Philip Sidney
- We Two Boys Together Clinging – Walt Whitman
Link to the book on Goodreads: