"The Anthologist"

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker

A delightful surprise is the best way to describe this book. The main character, Paul Chowder, is a published poet trying to write an introduction to a new anthology of verse. Rhyming verse to be precise. He has a fascination, perhaps an obsession, with rhyme though he is incapable of it himself and writes only free verse. He doesn't merely love rhyming verse, he believes in it and in its power to say more, mean more and reach more people.

Unfortunately, Paul has a bad case of writer's block and cannot come up with anything, not even a beginning sentence, for his introduction. His attempts, and the things he allows to keep him from it, make for a funny, smart and cunningly educational story. What he is telling us about rhyme and meter are what he wants to tell his readers in his introduction but he hasn't got that figured out yet. In the meantime we stand to learn something about poetry. We may even be inspired to read more of it or put pen to paper ourselves.

I would hazard a guess that if you don't like poetry at all you might not find this book terribly interesting. I'm a fan, so I think the it's great. I'm not at all knowledgeable about poetry at all, I just like what I like and I don't like the rest. I keep a hand-written journal of my favourites so I'll always have them together in one place when I need them. That's the thing about poetry - sometimes you don't just want it, you need it. My favourites are old, dear friends that offer me comfort and make me feel like there is, indeed, someone who understands how I feel.

If the world of poetry holds any interest for you I think you'll enjoy reading about Paul Chowder and his struggles, personal and literary. I love the guy. He's so honest, and artless - a funny word to apply to a poet now I think about it. Paul and his theories are worth getting to know and - bonus - I came away with a list of poets/poems to check out.

I'll leave you with a quote and the hope that you will enjoy this thoroughly enjoyable book.

"It turns out that helping is the main thing. If you feel that you have a use, if you think your writing furthers life or truth in some way, then you keep writing." 


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