English Renaissance Poetry: A Collection of Shorter Poems from Skelton to Jonson

John Williams (Editor) Robert Pinsky (Introduction by)
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Poetry in English as we know it was largely invented in England between the early 1500s and 1630, and yet for many years the poetry of the era was considered little more than a run-up to Shakespeare. The twentieth century brought a reevaluation, and the English Renaissance has since come to be recognized as the period of extraordinary poetic experimentation that it was. Never since have the possibilities of poetic form and, especially, poetic voice--from the sublime to the scandalous and slangy--been so various and inviting. This is poetry that speaks directly across the centuries to the renaissance of poetic exploration in our own time.

John Williams's celebrated anthology includes not only some of the most famous poems by some of the most famous poets of the English language (Sir Thomas Wyatt, John Donne, and of course Shakespeare) but also----and this is what makes Williams's book such a rare and rich resource--the strikingly original work of little-known masters like George Gascoigne and Fulke Greville.

Product Details

New York Review of Books
Publish Date
February 23, 2016
5.0 X 1.1 X 8.0 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author

John Williams (1922-1994) was born and raised in northeast Texas. Despite a talent for writing and acting, he flunked out of a local junior college after his first year. He reluctantly joined the war effort, enlisting in the Army Air Corps, and managed to write a draft of his first novel while there. Once home, Williams found a small publisher for the novel and enrolled at the University of Denver, where he was eventually to receive both his BA and MA, and where he was to return as an instructor in 1954.

He remained on the staff of the creative writing program at the University of Denver until his retirement in 1985. During these years, he was an active guest lecturer and writer, editing an anthology of English Renaissance poetry and publishing two volumes of his own poems, as well as three novels: Butcher's Crossing, Stoner, and the National Book Award-winning Augustus (all published as NYRB Classics).

Robert Pinsky's recent books are his Selected Poems (2011) and the anthology-manifesto Singing School (2015). As U.S. Poet Laureate (1997-2000), Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, with a growing video library at www.favoritepoem.org of Americans of various professions and ages reading aloud and commenting on poems by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Shakespeare, and others. His new book of poems is At the Foundling Hospital (2016).


"In the beginning, for many poets and readers, there are anthologies. They often provide our earliest source for poems. . . . For me, the most valuable anthology eventually became, and remains, this one: John Williams's English Renaissance Poetry." --Robert Pinsky, from the Introduction

"John Williams chose well, and framed his choices with clear and concise commentaries. A lifetime cannot exhaust the pleasures of this anthology that distills the most vigorous age of English lyricism. As a guide and a companion it is indispensable." --Geoffrey O'Brien

"The pithy and insightful page-long biographies are well worth pausing to read; then there is verse from 23 poets, as well as a selection of English madrigals, and I've barely found a duff line... This isn't just an anthology of ancient verse. It's a manual on how to write poetry that has the force, in Thomas Wyatt's resonant phrase, of having been not just written in ink, but 'graven with diamonds, in letters plain.'" --Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian