A beautiful rendering of Bloom’s personal wrestling with the approach of dying as he approaches 80.  He gathers sections or the entirety of 100 dead poets’ (the living are excluded) final work, or near final, or earlier work that addresses final issues.  Through a lengthy introduction and his 100 detailed head-notes, Bloom gradually fills in the outline of his world view, rejecting the concept of death but embracing the reality of dying, an indisputable and inevitable part of living.  His usual hierarchy of greatness—-Shakespeare (who gives the world inwardness and uncovers modern man) is primary, and Milton adds several lists.  The Lucretian poets (freed from the fear of death and its modern mythology—Dryden, Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, Swinburne, Whitman and Stevens.  The Modernists whose source is Walter Pater–Joyce, Pound, Woolf, Eliot, Yeats and Crane.  And his list of the ten greatest American poets—-Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, Stevens, Eliot Crane, Bishop, Merrill, Ammons, Ashbery.  Bloom is first and foremost a list maker.  He  points out the oyxmoronic nature of ‘death poems’ and the struggle for the devotional poet—What does one say about the good and evil of eternity—but he settles on Amy Clampett’s ‘A Silence’ which ‘opens’ at death, it is an attribute of lostness which bloom embraces.  Aiken, too, haunts the ‘shoreless shore of silence’. These poets speak to a supreme act of the humna mind—destroy illusions, dismiss immediate survival, and yet reach out to propound the perpetual possibility of the self, fated to dissolve but living in the minds and hearts of those remaining.  For the secular who reject illusion, where else is consolation to be found but in the forms and accents of farewell.  “The beauty and wisdom of these poems reverberates into the coming silence.”  Several themes recur through the 100 poets:  poetry as metaphor; poetry as myth; religion; education, especially Harvard and Oxbridge; alcohol and depression and suicide; struggle between God and the Devil, good and evil; TB, the great eliminator of the pre-20th C poets.  Innumerable nuggets throughout as in Longfellow’s “Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.”  Influence of Emerson’s central theme in US and Wordsworth in UK.  Ammons’ poem: In View of the Fact:  “…until we die we will remember every/single thing, recall every word, love every/loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to/others to love, love that can grow brighter/and deeper till the very end, gaining strength/and getting more precious all the way….”

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