(Near) Perfect Books of Poetry

The good folks over at Lilliput Review have been compiling a list of perfect or near perfect books of poetry and it has now reached the 200 mark.

You can check out the list here: http://lilliputreview.googlepages.com/nearperfectbooksofpoems

Many of the books on the list are books that have had a huge influence on me: Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Collected Greed Parts 1 – 13 by Diane Wakoski, 100 Poems from the Chinese tr. by Kenneth Rexroth and Poet in New York by Federico Garcia Lorca to name a few.

There are many books on the list I have never read (aaahhh to have the time to read everything I want) and there are of course many titles that I feel should be listed. After all, it wouldn’t be a list if you didn’t want to add to it!

So here are 5 suggestions from me…

On Love and Barley by Basho tr. by Lucien Stryk

The Best of Henri by Adrian Henri

The Clean Dark by Robert Adamson

Radiant Silhouette by John Yau; and

The Three Way Tavern by Ko Un


Each of these collections has had a profound impact on me and I could go on and list more, but I would love to hear which books of poetry you feel deserve to be on the list. So, please add your list of titles in the comments section and feel free to tell us why.

Look forward to hearing from you…


Filed under poetry & publishing

11 responses to “(Near) Perfect Books of Poetry

  1. ashleycapes

    Hi Graham – that’s an interesting list over there.

    I’d have to agree with the 2 on your suggestions that I’ve got, the stryk trans of Basho and the clean dark – both I love and re-read.

    What could I add that’s missing? a tough question, let me think a bit

  2. Jacqueline

    Touch to My Tongue by Daphne Marlatt

    • gnunn

      Thanks Jacqueline & Paul for your additions… here are two more suggestions I have had posted to me from Twin East Coast (spoken word poetry collective):

      Collected Poems by Sally Purcell (ed. Peter Jay)
      Going Down Swinging (no specific issue)

  3. “The Golden Bird” by Robert Adamson. It is gorgeous all the way through.

  4. NO NO NO!
    you’ve all forgotten about these ones, you naughty naughty creatures:-

    “After All” — William Matthews
    “Flowers of Evil” — Charles Baudelaire
    “The Fall” — Jordie Albiston
    “Streets of the Long Voyage” — Michael Dransfield
    “The Last Night of the Earth Poems” — Charles Bukowski
    “Dreaming of Robert de Niro” — Grant Caldwell
    “A bud” — Claire Gaskin
    “Weeping for Lost Babylon” — Eric Beach
    “I Think We Have” — Matt Hetherington

    • gnunn

      solid list matt. jordie albiston reading the title poem from the fall at QPF last year is somthing that will neve leave me.

  5. ashleycapes

    been trying to figure out just one or two but it’s hard…perhaps (other than to re-state the Lucien Stryk trans of Basho) ‘The Dumpling Field’ which is a Stryk trans of Issa

  6. Hmmm… I have mixed feelings about all this. There’s a little piece of me that just reacts to the mere concept of putting together any list or “canon”… “Perfect” by whose standards? It’s always going to be subjective…
    And yet, I see a lot of poetry books on that list that I love. I’m actually quite surprised by how many “alternative” titles make the list… Frank O’Hara has 2 on there, which grabs my attention bc I’ve just been reading an article about him for my thesis… it took a long time for him to be considered a “serious” poet… I think that many books on this list would have never made such a list as recently as 50years ago, which is encouraging.
    There is a bit of a bias towards American and English poets. And obviously, only books that were written in or translated into English can qualify.
    (So much brilliant Bengali poetry that can’t get a look in!)
    Tagore, at least, should have rated a mention.

    Also, it’s biased towards page poetry, so sound poetry and performance based stuff gets forgotten.

    I don’t think there are any concrete poets on there.
    (Pi O and Derek Beaulieu would be nice additions)

    I would have liked to have seen Gabrielle Everall’s ‘Donna Juanita and the Love of Boys’ on there… nephetism, yes, but John Kinsella praised that book too so it’s more than just my bias.

    Now I just sound like a very cranky old nay sayer (at 25!) but actually I love this sort of thing and all the discussions it can generate. 😉

  7. jules

    Sweeping the Light Back into the Mirror by Nathan Shepherdson, Rainswayed Nights by Max Ryan and Totem by Luke Davies – all so very nearly perfect…

  8. Don

    Graham, Jacqueline, Paul, Matt, Amelia, and Jules: First off, thanks Graham for posting a link to the list of Near Perfect books of Poetry. It’s taken awhile for me to get around to finding it and going through the suggestions everybody made. I’ve added almost all the suggestions here – when I didn’t have an author or specific title I didn’t add (no self noms, either, sorry Matt). I’ve found some incredible poetry from your suggestions and I want to thank you all very much for that. It’s great to have Aussie representation. As noted on the list page, I offer the two current issues of Lilliput Review free for those who contribute to the list, so you are all entitled if you wish copies. My address and email may be found at the links Graham provides in his original posting, above. I’ll need your snail mail address if you’d like the current two issues free. Just send along an email with your address and I’ll send the issues. Thanks again, Don Wentworth, Editor, Lilliput Review / Issa’s Untidy Hut.

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