Is the Phoenix Rising from the Ashes, or Crashing in Flames?
by Michael R. Burch
For quite some time Richard Vallance, the editor-in-chief of The Phoenix
Rising from the Ashes, has been touting the book as the first "major"
multilingual sonnet anthology of the twenty-first century, using effusions like
"outstanding," "remarkable" and "stellar" to advertise and, presumably, sell it. But as the old saw goes, "the proof
is in the pudding." Now that the book has finally been published, we can compare
the marketing hype to the reality.
I will begin this reality check by saying that the anthology does contain, here
and there, good poems by commendable poets. I particularly enjoyed "Still Life"
by Annie Finch, "Warranty and Envoy" by Philip Fried, "Schindler's List" by
Corey Harvard, "Porous" by Constance Rowell Mastores, "Lullaby for
Romeo" by Sara Russell, "Harrowing" and "Coming to Terms" by Catherine Chandler,
"The Thousand Things" by Paul Christian Stevens, "An Offering" by Conrad Geller,
"Cambridge Spring" by Mitchell Geller, "Snipping the Threads" by Jim
Dunlap, "Not a Sonnet" by Anna Evans, "Presences"
by Sandra Shaffer Van Doren, Terese Coe's translations
of Ronsard and Rilke, and a few others. However, I found locating the better
poems to be like searching for treasure concealed within the eerie,
seaweed-enshrouded skeleton of a sunken ship. At times the waters grew confoundingly murky: for instance,
in the section where Vallance indulged in self-congratulatory commentary about
a garland of sonnets he penned concerning the Titanic's catastrophic maiden
voyage. Valance began his less-than-objective analysis in
the third person, as if someone else were praising his work, then switchedseemingly
obliviouslyinto the first person, giving the game away. In his
commentary, Valance employed broken, sometimes incomprehensible, bizarrely-punctuated
English. It is undoubtedly the strangest passage of literary criticism that I
have ever read, being simultaneously narcissistic and incredibly awkward: an unmitigated disaster.
Thus, my references to the Titanic in this review are not gratuitous. It seems
fitting that this over-hyped collection's most vaunted poems are about a voyage
that began with hubristic marketing of an "unsinkable" ship, only to end with a symbol of human
arrogance and its chief officers vanishing, never to be seen again. Can Vallance
and his anthology escape similar fates? Not a chance. I am reminded
of a line from "The Convergence of the Twain" by Thomas Hardy: "What does this
vaingloriousness down here?"
And because the anthology's numerous defects remind me of the Titanic's popping
rivets and flooding compartments, I question whether readers will consider the
book to be worth its cost, their valuable time, and the annoyances and
frustrations they'll experience in their search for something of value.
the worthier poems may remain undiscovered as readers give up the search due to
numerous quality control failures on the part of the anthology's editors. Or,
more accurately, on the part of the editor who posed for the literary equivalent
of "selfies" while at least four members of his crew pointed out the disaster
looming on the horizon.
I was briefly one of Vallance's co-editors until I identified serious deficiencies in
the material slated for publication. I and another editor were
jettisoned after we candidly stated our
opinions. Here's what the other dismissed editor had to say after
viewing the parts of the book that can be read online (he
refused to pay anything for the printed version):
The book is not a professional production because the editor wasn't up to the
job. As a result the book has turned out to be very uneven. Quality is far from
consistent. The editor has failed to prove himself a good judge. For that reason
the anthology will not be regarded as serious, nor the collection as
stellar. Considered as a whole it will be judged a failure. The weeding wasn't
done, and the flowerbed is full of crabgrass. But there still are some flowers.
This, I believe, is an accurate and fair evaluation. The anthology's
saving graces are its occasional flowers, if readers are not so discouraged by
the weeds that they stop reading. The weeds are thick and sprout prodigiously,
like literary kudzu, almost everywhere one looks. Some creepers crop up even before the
gate is unlatched; these errors include, by my count, one on the front cover, five on
the back, two in the masthead credits, and seven in the prefatory poem. And
readers are willing to dig long and deep enough, they will uncover some of the worst
grammar, wobbliest logic and weirdest-looking punctuation ever to grace
"Literature." Then, for the crowning touch, there's the very uneven poetry, which according to
editor "ranges from the comically archaic and imitative to a style more
in tune with the modern ear."
Two other editors who remained aboard the anthology's listing vessel told me that their suggestions for improvements were either ignored or overruled by Vallance; one of them
also mentioned poets complaining that their
poems, dedications and/or bios had not been published to their satisfaction. So
the book's defects were pointed out to Vallance more than once, and
yet he failed to inspect, much less repair them. Instead, he chose to fire, overrule or ignore the messengers.
And so in my opinion, like the captain of the Titanic,
he should take full responsibility for the results that occurred on his watch,
while his hand commanded the helm.
The anthology contains a wide variety of imperfections, ranging from
numerous typographical inconsistencies and other glitches that accumulate to make the
book seem exceedingly chaotic and messy, to huge, jagged breaches like those the iceberg
left in the hull of the "unsinkable" ship. The Titanic's
advertisers were guilty of false advertising; I believe the same is true of
Valance in his marketing efforts. The remainder of this review consists mostly
of evidence to support my allegations and refute his.
The Tip of an Enormous Iceberg
Here is direct evidence, straight from the anthology's pages, to support my allegations. For so many atrocious
passages to appear in a "major" sonnet anthology seems unthinkable, and yet this is just the tip of an
enormous iceberg, as there are many more where these came from. And please keep in mind that in this initial sampling, I have quoted the editors Themselves.
True to form, sonnets 7 and 8 ... adheres to the paradigm. [Richard Vallance, editor-in-chief]
Oh then, down what infernal hole fell life, ... [Marie Marshall, deputy editor]
With strength of prayer I seek to wield I'm heavy laden, Lord, heavy laden yet our joint flames might form a sturdy shield. [Christine Aikens-Wolfe, editor]
An antique dew does moisten where Mab's print of thumb she lay ... To claim thee Mab I do persist ... [Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino, editor]
By hungers can some ills be diagnosed. [Becca Menon, editor]
Now her womb fluctuates obsessive echoes, echoes where once a life's blood was lighten ... [Robin Ouzman Hislop, editor]
Destruction reigned supreme along each side as forces indescribable collide ... [Eric Linden, editor]
... Arrayed in rows, the likes you've never seen ... [Richard Doiron, editor]
... where every time returned, a lesson brings, ... [Katherine L. Sparrow, editor]
I hold in my heart this share of your anxiety. the part of your nightmare you passed on to me. [R. W. Haynes, editor]
Little girl lost on rue St.-Laurent top tugged down her breasts to flaunt, ... [Carol Knepper, editor]
The oaths sworn in were sworn with prejudice; ... [Candice James, editor]
The world to an end shall come ... [David Seddon, editor]
The Chinese artist may come into conflict with ideological strictures of their society ... [Howard Giskin, editor]
Here we have fourteen ghastly passages by fourteen different editors. The fact
that the editors failed to identify and correct such glaring defects in their
own writing suggests that they were unqualified to edit a book of any sort, much less a "major sonnet
anthology." Here are the observations of a friend of mine who has both
edited and published poetry books:
Since I haven't seen the published anthology, it is hard for me to have any
distinct impression of it. But from excerpts and quotations I've seen, I
would guess that the anthology's main problem is pretension, an exaggerated
claim to importance.
One would expect an anthology of Victorian or Elizabethan poetry to be full
of antique diction.
But in a book purporting to be a collection of poems by contemporary writers,
one would not.
And one would not expect either type of collection to be riddled with
bungled language and botched typography.
At the very least, one would expect any such volume to be fully literate, and
devoid of evidence of either editorial or authorial incompetence.
I could never have allowed a book I was editing to come out with the language
defects that riddle this one. But I am fortunate in being able to SEE such
When editing a book, one must comb through proofs again and again in order to be
100% sure that everything is as it should be. But no number of combings will
help if the person doing the combing does not have enough command of language to
spot mistakes and deficiencies.
Whoever did the combing for this anthology seems to have overlooked a large
number of glaring deficiencies. Which to me strongly suggests, unless a
supreme carelessness in the preparation of such an important contribution to
world literature could account for it, that the editors simply didn't know what
they were doing.
Because the anthology is full of weirdness that I prefer to reproduce as
faithfully as possible, I have adopted the following conventions for this
Quotations from the book are often indented,
so that I can preserve the original punctuation "as is," without adding
quotation marks to the mix.
In examples of incorrect or questionable punctuation, I have used italics rather than
encapsulating quotation marks (for instance, boss'
rather than the harder-to-read "boss'").
I have also used italics
at times when quoting Vallance (for
instance, in my references to his sonnet 7).
If the capitalization and punctuation seem a bit "squirrely" at times, it's because I'm chasing something "nutty."
When I am not
referring to text as it appears in the anthology, I have used my own preferred
When I think there is a better way of saying something, I have
placed my suggestion in square brackets after the word(s) in question (for
instance: "stedfast [steadfast]").
More Misleading Marketing?
After I published the original version of this review, I discovered five
reviews written by "prominent literary critics, poets and sonneteers" of the
Phoenix anthology. These reviews appeared together in The Eclectic Muse.
Does it strike you, as it struck me, that it is highly unusual for "prominent
literary critics" to review their own work? And why do some of them sound like
star-struck teenagers, confusing their off-key piano banging for the second coming of
Mozart, their pie-in-the-sky masterpieces for the real McCoy? One of the star-struck critics, Robin Ouzman Hislop, used
the following terms to describe the
anthology: "ambitious," "prodigious," "epic" and "monumental" (twice). Hislop
also described the anthology's editors (presumably including himself) as "valiant"
and "industrious." Collectively, he called the editors a "carefully selected
board" even though, as this review will amply demonstrate, many
of them would have a
hard time passing a grade school grammar quiz. According to Hislop the editors
invested "care," "knowledge" and "expertise" in the "daunting task" of
"winnowing" the poems down from the thousands submitted to the ones
published. But a considerable number of the poems published were provided by
the editors and their friends and associates. Some of the poems with
the most egregious errors were written by those dauntless, intrepid experts. Is
that careful winnowing, really? Now, as an amusing way of questioning the
critics' alleged prominence, here are quotes from their
The sonnet, a verbal medium, may be visualized as a screen or window onto shifting horizons.
It would be nice if those horizons included much clearer, far more graceful writing.
In its [i.e., the sonnet's] consummate artistry, it springs like the Phoenix from the ashes ...
The sonnet has long been the most popular English poetic form. When did it ever die, to require revival?
Great sonnets were written in the twentieth century: "Acquainted with the Night"
by Robert Frost, "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden, "The Unreturning" by
Wilfred Owen, "Leda and the Swan" by William Butler Yeats, and "Love Is Not All"
by Edna St. Vincent Millay, just to name a few. Also, the sonnet is a poetic form and
does not itself possess "consummate artistry." (Discerning readers,
for instance, will be hard-pressed to find any evidence of "consummate artistry"
in any of the sonnets penned by the anthology's editors.)
What poetry genre, if any, is more concise or more polished than the sonnet for
its keen lyricism, cascading, resplendent, layer upon layer, only to surprise us
by rising to a pitch in the very last verse.
This is woefully bad writing and even worse logic. A poetic form like the sonnet does not have the
property of lyricism, although the better poets and their poems can be
wonderfully lyrical. But obviously there have been many terrible, bad and
mediocre sonnets written, which were far from lyrical or polished, so no serious
literary critic can ascribe such properties to the sonnet as a form or genre.
This cosmopolitan anthology firmly establishes the sonnet as the masterpiece in miniature it surely is ...
A poetic form like the sonnet cannot logically be called a masterpiece.
Great artists produce masterpieces, but a form by itself is the equivalent of a
blank canvas. While it is true that poets who
mastered poetic forms have produced masterpieces, it is just as true that inept
have produced dross using those same forms. Also,
as we will see, the anthology is
full of provincial, backward-looking language with a regional (i.e., Canadian) bias, and thus
does not qualify as cosmopolitan. Furthermore, great poets of the
pastpoets like Petrarch, Henry Howard, Thomas Wyatt
and William Shakespearewrote immortal sonnets long before the anthology's
editors were gleams in their parents' eyes. So how can the anthology "establish"
the sonnet in any way? Do "prominent literary critics" make three
prominent mistakes in half a sentence?
The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes is a goldmine of material from a wide
variety of contemporary sonneteers, promising to entertain readers with its
eclectic choice of poems spanning virtually all subjects of vital interest in
these beginning years of the twenty-first century.
I found the anthology, like these review excerpts, to be entertaining for all
the wrong reasons. The editors seem to be the kings of unintentional comedy. And what sort of goldmine
makes "eclectic choices"?
I say this new anthology is a monumental work because nothing really like it has ever been done before.
If the pyramids had been built only to immediately collapse into piles of dust,
would they be considered monumental works today? Obviously not. For a work to be
monumental, it needs to last and inspire awe, or, at the very least,
But all the anthology inspired me to do was raise my eyebrows when I compared its editors'
claims of greatness to the myriad defects of their alleged masterwork. Many bad books have at
least been adequately edited. This one stands alone as a model of complete indifference to
the requirements of good (or even halfway decent) writing. In my opinion,
the book's more hubristic editors are much better at resting on imaginary laurels, than earning real ones. They should have read a poem they published, Percy
Bysshe Shelly's "Ozymandias," and considered its implications for writers whose
boasting vastly exceeds their ability to create anything enduring.
Since Canada is a bilingual nation, Chapter 2 [containing sonnets
composed in French] is not translated into English.
What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? If the anthology is an
international, cosmopolitan affair, as its editors claim, the linguistic policies
of one nation shouldn't matter a hill of
beans. Or if Canada somehow matters more than all the other nations of the
earth combined, one can only hope that it goes unilingual soon, so that translations from
French to English will no longer be discriminated against. Furthermore, if Canada's
status as a bilingual nation precludes the translation of French poems into
English, why did Vallance translate compliments paid to him in French, into English?
That strange decision may give readers the impression that he thinks
tips of the cap to him are more important than poems written by
Chapters 3 through 5 comprise sonnets in Spanish and English, along with sonnets
in French and German, and ghazals in Farsi, all translated into English.
Here, Hislop contradicts both himself and Vallance, in very awkward English, by saying that French sonnets were
translated into English, after all. Did Canada's bilingual status change between
the creation of chapters 2 and 5? In his awkwardness Hislop also says that English sonnets were translated into
English. (And yet some of the English sonnets penned by the editors Themselves remain
virtually indecipherable!) Furthermore, Hislop fails to mention the Chinese
poems translated into English in Chapter 5, which seems like a slap in the face
to the world's most populous nation. There is also a Latin ode and its translation that go unmentioned. One wonders whether the editors
bothered to read their own book. If they did, the question becomes: Why they have
struggled so mightily to explain what they did, and to
convince us that we should be impressed rather than puzzled?
Another contributing editor, Howard Giskin, has published praise-filled
reviews of the book, including one posted on Amazon for which he was thanked "so
kindly" by Vallance for helping to raise the amateurish production to an overall
four-star rating. Should contributing editors write and publish self-serving
reviews of their own work?
struggles to write coherent, grammatically correct English, often
failing miserably, as evidenced by these samples of his writing from the book:
Shakespeare's already moderately remote from us, that is our use of the English
[because our version of the English language is so different from his]. In the last passage above, Giskin clumsily
claims that as
a native English speaker and translator, he is able to recreate something
"elegant" by working with a native Chinese speaker, if they have "alchemy"
together. He uses the term "elegant" three times in apparent reference to his
work as a co-translator of Ma Lai. But Giskin's English is far from "elegant." A more accurate description
would be "atrocious." And no amount of teamwork can raise such terrible writing
to the level of elegance, unless the teammate is a much better English writer
than Giskin, gives him the boot, and starts over from scratch.
She ... began to write poems in the 1980's and essays in [the] 1990's.
Daoism and Buddhism likely also have [have also probably] influenced Ma Lai,
[since these are] thought systems which have had [a] lasting effect on Chinese
The Chinese artist may come into conflict with ideological strictures of their
[his/her] society ...
The native sees [may see] clearly what's in the original though [yet] finds it
[find it] difficult to recreate something elegant and true in another tongue.
Similarly [On the other hand], for persons who have learned a foreign language
it's hard to gain native [a native's] grasp of the emotional and syntactic
nuances of another [a second] tongue. Thus [However,] work done by an English
language native and source language native, if the alchemy is right, can yield
translations that are more accurate, subtle and elegant than either could
achieve [alone]. ... I like the idea of translation as a dialectic aimed at
arriving at an elegant, though [if] ultimately inconclusive [not entirely
faithful] version of the poem in the target language.
Do "prominent literary critics" struggle to state fairly simple ideas in
coherent English? I think a more honest form of advertising might be: "Please
buy our over-priced, horribly botched book so that we can finally afford to take
remedial English courses at the local community college."
Ironically, the editors couldn't get the prefatory poem right: the one that
presumably provided the anthology with its name and theme.
The book's first poem, Shakespeare's "Sonnet XIX," has seven
transcription errors in fourteen lines, a 50% failure rate, when compared to
versions that appear in No Fear Shakespeare Sonnets (published
by SparkNotes), The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (published by
MIT), Wikipedia and Shakespeare Online. According to these sources, there are three major errors
in the anthology's version:
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets [fleet'st]
Here is the horse's mouth, so to speak: the
poem as it appeared in the 1609 book Shake-Speares Sonnets. It seems clear to me that the
correct words are the ones I have bracketed above.
But I forbid thee one more [most] heinous crime
O, carve not with the [thy] hours my love's fair brow
The other transcription errors may be more debatable, as they have to do
with the poem's punctuation and capitalization. (Perhaps one should say
"discrepancies" rather than "errors" at this point.) The two most egregious
changes in the anthology's version of the sonnet, in my opinion, are
the exclamation marks that mysteriously pop up in lines ten and thirteen. These
insertions seem completely arbitrary to me: why those lines and not lines two, four, seven, twelve and fourteen? In a
similar vein, the anthology capitalizes "Phoenix" but not "Tiger."
Why one and not the other?
The seventh discrepancy is the lack of a comma after "wrong" in line
I would not have made any of the seven changes below; when
in doubt I would have stuck like glue to the oldest extant text:
Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,
And make the earth devour her own
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's  jaws,
And burn the
long-liv'd Phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets ,
do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading
But I forbid thee one more  heinous crime:
O, carve not with the  hours my
love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen! 
Him in thy
course untainted do allow
For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do thy
worst, old Time!  Despite thy wrong 
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
Other anthologized sonnets by famous poets also contain transcription errors, some of them
major. In "Bright Star" by John Keats the word "steadfast" is
"stedfast," then later is spelled correctly. In "Why Did I Laugh Tonight? No
Voice Will Tell," also by Keats, there is a capitalization error in "o [O]
mortal pain!" In Keats's "Answer to a Sonnet Ending Thus:-" there is either a
spurious hyphen following the colon, or it should be an em dash. Also in the
same poem two contractions appear to be facing backwards because they have left single
quotation marks in place of apostrophes. A fourth poem by Keats, "Written in
Disgust of Vulgar Superstition," has three punctuation errors. The title of Edna St. Vincent
Millay's sonnet "I Will Put Chaos into Fourteen Lines" is missing and the words
"not yet" are transposed within the poem. In Shakespeare's "Sonnet CXVI" one
contraction employs a left single quotation mark, another a right
single quotation mark. In "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, two
sentences were created by the transformation of periods into commas. In
Shakespeare's "Sonnet LIII" the inflection mark in "blessθd" is missing.
When Vallance was informed about transcription errors, some quite conspicuous, in what he mistakenly calls
"classical" poems (when he means famous poems of the past), he accused the
informant of trying to "rewrite" masterpieces. But of course he
was only being advised to remove errors introduced by careless or incompetent copyists.
When I pointed out glaring errors in the work of contemporary poets, and offered
suggestions about possible corrections, Vallance also accused me of trying to "rewrite" the
poems. Unfortunately, the book was doomed before its maiden voyage commenced because Vallance resisted valid criticism: a serious failing in the captain of such a large, complex project.
Too Many Mediocre, Derivative Poems
In his Introduction, Vallance claims that the anthology's editors have
done their best to "ensure" that nothing written "simply" in the "spirit of
sonnets past" was included. From these and other remarks, such as the
anthology being called "major," "remarkable,""stellar,"
"epic" and "monumental," it would seem
reasonable to assume that readers will find only exemplary, non-derivative poems
written in superior modern English. But this is frequently not the case,
as many of the poems contain archaisms, inversions, poeticisms
and other forms of linguistic awkwardness. As evidence, here are excerpts from the poems:
Why, 'tis brave, and conquers doubt!
Do such lines pass the tests of modernity and excellence? Were the
editors "ensuring" that the poems published were stellar ones ready for the twenty-first
century, or were they introducing archaisms, inversions, poeticisms and wrenching
awkwardness in their own work?
Cynic, behold, be changed!
If brows be perfect, hers, more perfect, lie.
Why am I thus mute when all around / rings so much clamor for the vanishing year?
Heartsick, he withdrew / to his country retreat, where nettles throve.
My musings were obscure if not bizarre / And written out in phrases that were terse.
It wasn't long and soon I could confide / In Vera, who wrote technically concise.
Beside the Loch of Stenness, where rise proud / The Standing Stones ...
Thou always claimed the sun arose therein; ...
'Tis ready to drink right out o' the cask, ...
The fickle autumn breathes her brumous breath / in swirling phantoms far across the wold, ...
The man bade his servant to fetch his cello.
By hungers can some ills be diagnosed. [Becca Menon, editor]
An antique dew does moisten where / Mab's print of thumb she lay ... / To claim thee Mab I do persist ... [Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino, editor]
Youth are fodder, guns for butter traded ... [Christine Aikens-Wolfe, editor]
The world to an end shall come ... [David Seddon, editor]
We travelled light with broken compass nigh, ... [Candice James, editor]
Of all the souls who've trod upon this earth, ... [Katherine L. Sparrow, editor]
... where every time returned, a lesson brings, ... [Katherine L. Sparrow, editor]
Mount Blanc exploded from her cargo borne. [Eric Linden, editor]
Little girl lost on rue St.-Laurent / top tugged down her breasts to flaunt, ... [Carol Knepper, editor]
... on fear and addiction she bases her life. [Carol Knepper, editor]
My world of paints I splatter, like a child, ... [Richard Doiron, editor]
I say to you of colors far and wide / each one's in place pursuant to a prod ... [Richard Doiron, editor]
The blackbird's hour the time that steels / the twilight's lour ... [Marie Marshall, deputy editor]
Oh then, down what infernal hole fell life, ... [Marie Marshall, deputy editor]
Enough! Away! Avaunt! Begone, you lout! [Marie Marshall, deputy editor]
... so thrilling them they rain allegro tears ... [Richard Vallance, editor-in-chief]
If they run mad, though I may be God's fool ... [Richard Vallance, editor-in-chief]
Major Errors and Gibberish
Do the editors of major sonnet anthologies publish major errors
and gibberish? In certain cases I have removed line breaks in order to make
the problems below easier to identify.
I've seen the musk ox [oxen] form a British square ... their calves protected in the middle there ...
* The word "steadfast" is spelled correctly later in the same poem.
Some vainly seeking land, come [some] scurvy dead.
Bright star, would I were stedfast [steadfast*] as thou art ...
The lilacs that made the night heavy with scent, a purple was [wash] against
the stars, are gone, ...
As each may [May] morning birdsong gladly greets, ...
And yet not grown but advanced in speech. With harmony and grace painted on her
... his consciousness was chained by Duke (Savoy) to pillar's frost.
... and darkest tempest raging nights would taunt to dare to write to each for
And this small fright fixes the maze below my soul's blue tiles in concrete.
The oaths sworn in [**] were sworn with prejudice; ... [Candice James, editor]
The boss' [boss's] wife smells of aftershave lotion. [David Seddon, editor]
Instead of genuflection [genuflecting] I cry aloud. [Christine Aikens-Wolfe,
With strength of prayer I seek to wield I'm heavy laden, Lord, heavy laden yet
our joint flames might form a sturdy shield. [Christine Aikens-Wolfe, editor]
... Arrayed in rows, the likes [likes of which] you've never seen ... [Richard Doiron,
I hold in my heart this share of your anxiety. [:] the part of your nightmare you
passed on to me. [R. W. Haynes, editor]
Destruction reigned supreme along each side as forces indescribable collide
[collided] ... [Eric Linden, editor]
Daoism and Buddhism likely also have influenced Ma Lai, [being] thought systems
which have had [a] lasting effect on Chinese culture ... [Howard Giskin, editor]
The Chinese artist may come into conflict with ideological strictures of their
[his/her] society ... [Howard Giskin, editor]
The native sees clearly what's in the original though [but] finds it difficult
to recreate something elegant and true in another tongue. [Howard Giskin,
Now her womb fluctuates obsessive echoes, / echoes where once a life's blood was
lighten [?] ... [Robin Ouzman Hislop, editor]
Your dream is as if of secret corners ... [Robin Ouzman Hislop, editor]
Elusive floats the memory that sings of those whose path with our lives
intersects. [Katherine L. Sparrow, editor]
... Paul Muldoon, in [in an] interview, spoke ... [Richard Vallance, editor-in-chief]
They'll never acquiesce in [***] any urge to quell our fears of gales ... [Richard Vallance, editor-in-chief]
True to form, sonnets 7 and 8 ... adheres [adhere] to the paradigm. [Richard
He was technically a stylistic master of the poetic medium ... [Richard
** Oaths are sworn; human beings are sworn in.
*** Can one acquiesce "in" someone else's urge?
The errors above are just a small sampling of the book's linguistic attractions, or
failures, depending on one's taste in writing. There are many more errors of
grammar, syntax, style, spelling and punctuation: a veritable cornucopia of
blunders addressed in more detail at the end of this review.
The first words on the front cover seem wrong to me: "ANTHOLOGY OF SONNETS OF
THE EARLY THIRD MILLENNIUM." Since many (perhaps most) of the poems were written
prior to the year 2000, this seems to be more accurate: "AN EARLY THIRD MILLENNIUM
ANTHOLOGY OF SONNETS."
The back cover contains multiple errors. It says the anthology contains "315 sonnets
and Persian ghazals in English, Spanish, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and
Persian," when the ghazals appear only in Farsi and English. The meaning of
the word "classical" is misconstrued, a common theme throughout the anthology. There is an
extraneous comma after Catherine Chandler's name. Vallance's
extensive bio contains errors such as "and has and appeared" when he means "has
appeared," and mismatched commas in a parenthetical clause. His bio ends in limbo, with "...Disaster!, of
..." (could the missing words be
Vallance's space-exceeding bio may be a clue that the anthology is primarily or
largely a vehicle for ego gratification. I can't remember an editor of
any other anthology, major or otherwise, using half the back cover for his/her
bio. Vallance's name appears a mind-dulling eleven times on the covers, spine and opening
pages. Inside and out, his name appears at least 41 times, by my quick,
admittedly unscientific count. I probably missed others. Even worse, he repeats
his title "Editor-in-Chief" over and over again, like a broken record. The name of his deputy editor, Marie Marshall,
appears at least twelve times. Editors of anthologies normally take back
seats to the writers they publish; this one seems to be the exception to the
rule because the work of the editors and their associates dominates the book. For
instance, of the pages most likely to be read the opening
pages an astounding 88% contain writing cited to the editors and their
comrades. I based this calculation on the first 25 non-blank pages, starting
with the Preface. After 32 pages the percentage was still 81%. I couldn't make
calculations beyond that, due to the appearance of poems by poets I am
unfamiliar with. But it seems safe to say that the book's opening pages resemble
a vanity affair, not a "major" sonnet anthology, unless the editors are
themselves major poets. And I believe their writing disproves that theory.
When I was briefly an editor, I was told that poets would be limited to two
sonnets each. But this rule was obviously waived for some of the editors and
their friends. For instance, Vallance has nine poems, Marie Marshall six,
Sarah Russell six, David Seddon five, and the unlikely-named "Potato of Terror"
four. All are either editors of the anthology or associates of Vallance's through
past ventures like Sonnetto Poesia, The New Pleiades Anthology of Poetry and Poetry Life & Times.
Meanwhile, conspicuously absent are poets one would expect to find in a major
anthology of contemporary sonnets: Richard Wilbur, Seamus Heaney, Anthony Hecht,
Robert Mezey, A. E. Stallings, X. J. Kennedy, Wendy Cope, Richard Moore, et al.
One of the most vanity-press-like parts of the book is the section (pages 168-170)
where Vallance publishes remarks about, and glowing compliments of, his
translation of Shakespeare's "Sonnet LIII" into French. Vallance even translated one
of the compliments from French to English, for the benefit of his
readers! Curiously Vallance chose not to translate the anthology's
French poems into English, as if compliments paid to him were a higher priority
than other people's poetry. (For instance, he also published a complimentary letter written to him
in French by
Laurent Desvou and his English translation of the letter, moving the latter to the
book's opening pages.)
Furthermore, Vallance seems to be unwilling to share his glory even with
Shakespeare, since he lectures readers that "My version of William Shakespeare's
Sonnet 53 is simply not to be construed as a running translation of the
original. It is in fact my own original creation." (Here, as elsewhere in the
anthology, Vallance tosses in superfluous words like "simply" and "running" for
no discernible purpose.) Vallance's claim strikes me as an odd one, since I am
unaware of any accomplished translator suggesting that
translations are new creations so independent of the original work that the
lion's share of the honor does not remain with the original authors. The
translators whose notes I have studied are more
likely to apologize for the fact that they were unable
to reproduce poems with complete faithfulness, than to make freewheeling
deviations seem like major coups.
Should Vallance keep tooting his own horn so persistently and so loudly? I think not, and here's
another reason why
One of the more comical sections of the anthology can be found in Vallance's
extensive notes about his Titanic sonnets, on pages 139-140. Vallance begins his
commentary in the third person, calling himself "the author" as if someone else
were commenting on his work (and expressing considerable admiration), before
changing horses in midstream by switching to the first person. He stumbles on subject-verb agreement: "True to form, sonnets 7 and 8 ... adheres
[sic] to the paradigm." There is a font change in the middle of a quotation,
with the text suddenly shrinking in size. And there is some very messy, bizarre-looking punctuation. For
Likewise, the first line of sonnet 7 is a repetition of the last line of sonnet
6, "The dusk casts shadows on the drowning sun,", while the first line of sonnet
9 naturally is "..."Astern"! Propellers lash the ice they shred..."
Throughout the anthology, Vallance punctuates randomly: sometimes using the American method of keeping punctuation marks inside quotation marks, sometimes
using the British method of moving punctuation marks outside quotation marks, and sometimes,
quite curiously, doing both. He also inserts commas where they don't belong and omits
them where they are required. Commas are used where semicolons are indicated,
and vice versa. The format of em dashes changes from single hyphens, to double
hyphens, to dashes of varying lengths that are sometimes preceded and followed
by spaces, but sometimes not.
And confusion truly reigns when Vallance analyzes his own poetry in this hard-to-follow
(and swallow) passage:
Sonnet 7 ironically ends with first-class passengers, Isidor and Ida Strauss,
taking a last turn on the promenade deck (Deck A), before seeking shelter and
warmth in the posh first class saloon. Ironic, because toward the end of the
garland [of sonnets], the author returns to the old couple who opt to stay
aboard, and go down with the ship rather than being parted from one another. In
an ultimate gesture of bravery, Mrs. Strauss informs her husband, as an officer
on deck offers her a place in a lifeboat, "We have lived together for many
years. Where you go, I go." Later on in the garland, as the ship is going down,
the author renders her wish as "We've lived together many years.", followed in
the next line by, "Where you go, I go." in order to make her words conform with
iambic pentameter. The author frequently resorts to actual conversations by
certain of the crew and passengers to lend greater pathos to this, the most
horrific loss of any ship in peacetime history.
In this queerly-punctuated linguistic mishmash, Vallance seems to be claiming that
sonnet 7 ends ironically because the author returns to the Strausses
when they choose to die together, rather than be separated. However, what Vallance is describing is
not irony, but tragedy. The only claim for irony that I can imagine here is that the
couple went inside for a drink, only to end up drowning in the drink. But if
that's what Vallance meant, he could have said so much more clearly, in far fewer words.
And there was no need for him to brag about his prowess as an ironist and penner
of pathos-invoking pentameter in the process, which is what he seems to be doing,
at least to me.
Vallance then poses the riddle below. If you can solve it, you can probably
make millions on Jeopardy.
The sea's like glass this Sunday night. No moon
What do you make of "Ages Past" and how do you think it relates to the Titanic
striking an iceberg on a night without a trace of wind, when the sea was as
smooth and reflective as glass?
casts light upon the ice-pocked sea, where stars
are cast in bituminous black, in tune
with Ages Past.
Give up? I must admit that this "implicit reference" stumped me until I read Vallance's
analysis of his sonnet 8. By the way, it is at this point in his commentary that
Vallance reveals himself as the commentator, by slipping, perhaps obliviously,
into the first person:
"Ages Past".... By resorting to capitals here, I am making implicit reference to
the chilling lyrics penned by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) to the age-old hymn,
attributed to William Croft (1678-1727)
There are a number of problems with Vallance's observations and the way he
presents them. First, his
reference is more obscure than "implicit." Second, Isaac Watts wrote "Our
God, our help in ages past." (When John Wesley published the hymn, he
changed the first word to "O.") Third, the lyrics above are more hopeful
than "chilling." Fourth, William Croft wrote a wordless tune known as "St.
Anne" that did not achieve popular recognition until after Watts added his
lyrics. Therefore, it seems inaccurate to say that the hymn is attributed to
Croft. Rather, the hymn's lyrics are attributed to Watts, its tune to Croft,
and the hymn collectively to them both. Fifth, I question whether the hymn
qualifies as "age-old," since there are hymns that are far more ancient. The
oldest psalms in the Hebrew Bible, for instance, may be more than 2,500
years old. Thus, a term like "venerable" might
be more accurate. Sixth, did Vallance reluctantly or grudgingly "resort" to
employing capital letters in "Ages Past," or did he use them willingly? Seventh, why does his ellipsis
contain four dots when the more common three are used elsewhere in the
anthology? Eighth, why isn't there some form of punctuation, such as a colon,
introducing the quoted lines? Ninth, why is there no mark of punctuation at the
end of the quoted lines, such as a period or ellipsis? Do editors of major
sonnet anthologies make so many errors in such a brief passage?
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home
Perplexingly, Vallance seems to expect readers to somehow understand that "Ages Past" refers to
the hymn "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," even though he fails to reveal the
hymn's full title in his poem, or a footnote. He also seems to expect readers to know that the obscurely-referenced hymn refers to a "stormy blast"
and that this somehow relates to the Titanic's fate, even
though there was no storm, nor any wind, on the night the Titanic sank.
He even insists that the hymn's lyrics are "all the more ironic, since
there was no 'stormy blast' when the Titanic struck the iceberg at exactly
11:140 p.m. [sic], on Sunday, April 14, 1912." I beg to differ, because his
obscure allusion to a storm when the sea was perfectly calm strikes me
as confusing irrelevance, not irony. And in any case the lyrics
themselves were not ironic. If there is any irony to be found, it must lie in
Vallance's incredibly oblique allusion, not in lyrics that say what they mean.
In his commentary Vallance goes to considerable lengths to convince readers of his prowess as an
ironist, but he only managed to convince me that he mistakenly
believes the word "irony" means something like "unexpected" or "curious"
or, as another poet put it, "god knows what."
Rocky Beginnings: Subpar Grammar, Diction and Logic
Did Vallance manage to create a good initial impression on new and prospective
readers? No, the book gets off to a very rocky, uncomfortable start.
Here are examples of his struggles with grammar, diction and logic, taken from the anthology's Preface, Acknowledgements and Introduction:
Chapter 5 demonstrates the fine art of poetry translation of sonnets in French and German, a translation of Horace's Latin Ode ... and ghazals in
Does a chapter "demonstrate" ghazals that appear in their native language, or
does it contain or present them? What Vallance meant to say, I assume, was
something like: "Chapter 5 contains translations of French and German sonnets, a
translation of Horace's Latin Ode ... and ghazals in Farsi (Persian)." But the
chapter also contains translations of the ghazals into English, so not to
mention them seems
odd, and somewhat misleading.
Some of you may be wondering, why publish sonnets in so many languages?
According to the Summer Institute of Linguistics, there are 6,909 human languages, so it's debatable whether Vallance's six qualifies as "so many." I
think "multiple languages" would have been better. But I believe Vallance is
wrong about the number of languages employed in his own anthology, because I
count sonnets in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese,
Farsi, Shetlandic and Latin.
... multicultural, multilingual publications are becoming far more
commonplace than ever before since the advent of printed books in the latter
part of the fifteenth century.
This confusing passage borders on being gibberish. I think Vallance means to
say something like: "... there are many more multicultural, multilingual publications today than at any time
since the invention of the printing press." But because there are also many
more such publications today than during the days of hand-copied books,
parchment scrolls, stone tablets and cave drawings, that still seems wrong. It
would make more sense to say something like: "... there are more multicultural,
multilingual publications today than ever before." But in any case, his
confused wording has no place in any sort of
literature, much less a major sonnet anthology. And, as another poet pointed out,
"His linking of Gutenberg's invention with an alleged recent increase in
multicultural publications remains an insoluble mystery."
In the same chapter, we pay tribute to one of the twentieth and
twenty-first century's most personable sonneteers ...
Since two different centuries are being discussed, it should be centuries' with an apostrophe after the "s."
By exception, we have opted to publish two poems which are not sonnets, these being Carol Knepper's quatrains
on the famous rue Saint-Denis in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which bring to
life the joie de vivre in this fun-loving quartier of the world's
second-largest francophone city.
"By exception" seems not only unnecessary and awkward, but nonsensical, and
should have been omitted. Furthermore, the observation makes little sense because the
anthology contains a variety of poems that are not sonnets: quatrains, Persian ghazals, Chinese poems, an
ode, perhaps others depending on how strictly one defines the term "sonnet."
Furthermore, it seems Vallance didn't bother to read Knepper's poems, which do
not convey joie de vivre, but paint a very bleak landscape (especially
the first, which is about a little girl who becomes a heroin addict and a
prostitute, then ends up being murdered).
Occasionally, we include classical [sic] sonnets immediately
preceding their contemporary counterparts, to illustrate the continuity
between sonnets past and present raising similar concerns, or exhibiting
elements of style and structural approach common to both.
This seems like more near-gibberish to me. Vallance may be struggling to say
something like: "We have occasionally preceded
contemporary sonnets with sonnets from the past, in order to demonstrate how much they
have in common, stylistically and structurally, and how they frequently share
You are holding in your hands what is arguably the first major international anthology of sonnets in the twenty-first century.
In my opinion "major" is, indeed, very arguable.
... Paul Muldoon, in interview, spoke ...
Do "major" sonnet anthologies contain, "by exception," broken English?
The anthology's bio pages remind me of the hype about
the Titanic before it sank. Some of the poets seem to be intent on impressing us with their accomplishments, while lacking the ability to
communicate those accomplishments clearly (unless the editors introduced the
errors). The titles of poems and books often appear without the
customary quotation marks and italics, respectively, making it difficult to tell
where one title ends and the next one begins. Some words are randomly
capitalized. Punctuation seems to be a matter of whim, with periods
being dropped and commas inserted haphazardly. Quotation marks are mismatched.
Grammatical errors abound. Archaisms such as "amongst" are employed. Vallance
takes the liberty of inserting his thoughts into the bios, with comical results.
Take, for instance, this curious locution in which Valance makes it sound as if W. H. Auden
was "engaged" in fascism and that his engagement in fascism somehow related to
his abilities as a poet: "He was technically a stylistic master of the poetic
medium, frequently engaging in moral and political issues, especially fascism
..." (but Auden opposed fascism, and
Vallance's remarks about poetic mastery sound like so much gobbledygook to me).
Vallance's bio is, unsurprisingly, the longest and windiest; it also contains random
commas. Other editors with errors and/or moments of extreme awkwardness in their
bios include Manavaz Alexandrian, Candice James, Carol Knepper, Eric Linden,
Marie Marshall and Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino. The fact that some of the editors
couldn't get their own bios right speaks worlds.
Furthermore, the editors sometimes speak
of themselves and their associates in such flattering terms that it becomes
embarrassing to the reader, or at least to this particular reader. For example,
the bio of associate editor Eric Linden praises his "remarkable virtuosity as a
poet comfortable with formal verse." However, one would suspect that the poems
of Linden's that appear in the anthology are among his personal best, and lines
like these don't qualify for such high praise, in my opinion:
Mount Blanc exploded from her cargo borne.
Here, as further evidence of the need for a bit more humility (or a lot), are
examples of how the editors botched the bios of other poets:
Destruction reigned supreme along each side / As forces indescribable collide
the gust / ... razed three hundred acres leveled, gone
[were the acres "gone," really?]
Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) was an American poet born in New York City, best known
for her sonnet, "The New Colossus" (1883), noteworthy for the fact that in 1903
it was inscribed in bronze on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
This is very awkward writing and the comma before the title of the poem
implies that it was her only sonnet.
The first sentence in Shakespeare's bio sounds out of place in a major sonnet
anthology: "Well, if you don't know who he is, you have a serious problem!" That
makes me think of Kermit the Frog teaching toddlers on Sesame Street.
Percy Bysshe Shelley's bio is, in my opinion, a
The bio of John Keats concludes: "His sonnets are as equally as memorable as the
rest of his magnificent poetry."
Edna St. Vincent Millay's bio is phrased very awkwardly in places, and contains
a spurious hyphen after the word "which."
Dylan Thomas's bio contains random commas. It also says that Thomas remains
popular today because he drank to excess. But there are many dead inebriates who
remain completely unknown, so it seems safe to say that the great Welsh poet
remains popular today because of his poetry. He may remain somewhat
notorious for his legendary bouts of hard drinking.
In my opinion, this Phoenix is not rising from the ashes, but crashing in
flames. Why? Because the anthology's captain either fired, overruled or ignored
at least four of his lookouts when they warned him
about the looming disaster. Thus, many necessary repairs were
never made. The anthology is not a complete loss, because there are good poems
here and there. But my fear is that readers may never reach the better poems
because the book's multitudinous flaws discourage exploration. As another poet
put it quite succinctly, "It would be too bad if all the book ended up inspiring
in readers was a wish they could return it for a refund." Unfortunately, in my
experience, that's very likely to be the case.
Errors Abound: Further Evidence for the Not-Yet-Convinced
The anthology is fraught with errors and inconsistencies, from cover to cover ...
As demonstrated in excerpts above, the book contains, in places, truly bizarre punctuation,
wrenching inversions, atrocious archaisms and horrendous grammar.
In some poems em dashes are used but vary in length and thickness; in other poems one or two hyphens are used where em dashes are indicated.
Sometimes spaces precede and/or follow em dashes, but not always.
Sometimes three dots are used for an ellipsis, sometimes four, even when not at the end of a sentence.
Sometimes a space precedes an ellipsis, sometimes not.
Sometimes dedications and epigraphs are indented, sometimes not.
Sometimes dedications and epigraphs appear in different font sizes, even on the same page (page 114, for example).
Sometimes when a poet has two poems on a page there is a heading to that
effect, but sometimes there is no heading at all (page 10, for example).
Some poems have been published without the poets' names, forcing
us to guess who wrote them (page 47, for example).
At least one poet's bio is missing: Conrad Geller's.
At least one poem was published without a title: Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet.
The titles of poems are sometimes italicized and sometimes appear inside quotation marks, but
most appear in plain text, making them difficult or
impossible to identify.
All notes have the same indicator, a single asterisk, making it very hard to
match notes to their respective articles and poems.
Roman numerals are used in the titles of Shakespeare's sonnets, with the
exception of Vallance's much-ballyhooed translation of Sonnet 53.
On the front cover, the first words printed seem wrong to me: "ANTHOLOGY OF
SONNETS OF THE EARLY THIRD MILLENNIUM."
Since many (perhaps most) of the poems were written prior to the year 2000,
this seems more accurate: "AN EARLY THIRD MILLENNIUM ANTHOLOGY OF SONNETS."
The first two pages contain masthead formatting errors such as lines that have
been split for no
apparent reason. Vallance's name appears eight times (five with his impressive
The first poem published, Shakespeare's "Sonnet XIX" contains seven
transcription errors, three of them major, when compared to sources cited
in this review.
The Preface (pages ix-x) is incomprehensible in places and contains
errors noted elsewhere such as "century's," "classical" and "by exception."
The Acknowledgements page expresses the hope that the anthology will be
perceived as "remarkable." And well it may, for its remarkable number of
The Introduction (pages 1-4) contains broken English ("Paul Muldoon, in
interview, spoke ...") and other writing that verges on being gibberish.
On page 6, the first page containing contemporary poetry, there are archaisms
and errors: for instance, 'tis with a left single quotation mark rather
than an apostrophe.
On page 7, there are punctuation errors and an inversion ("Why am I
thus mute when all around / rings so much clamor for the vanishing year?").
On page 8, there are more inversions: "[her] top tugged down her breasts to
flaunt" and "on fear and addiction she bases her life."
On page 9, there is a run-on sentence in the second poem, with something
indecipherable about a "wound" that is "lost in the winter chill."
On page 12, the singular "ox" is used when there are obviously multiple
"oxen." There is also a very awkward inversion: "... every time returned, a
On page 12, there is more extreme awkwardness: "Elusive floats the memory that
sings of those whose path with our lives intersects."
On page 16, the hyphenated word "dark-blue" was transformed into the
unwieldy-looking "dark Blue" when the hyphen
somehow became an em dash.
On page 18, consecutive em dashes have different thicknesses, as if one is
On page 19, there are more archaisms: "where nettles throve" and "The man bade
his servant to fetch his cello."
On page 21, the second poem seems incomprehensible to me: "the reed of a loom,
/ the guideways, of a loom, or / when suddenly, when suddenly ... etc."
On page 22, there is yet another awkward inversion: "The world to an end
On page 23, the possessive form of "boss" appears twice as boss' rather than boss's.
There is also punctuation missing after "groaning."
On page 23, there is also the indecipherable "... and darkest tempest raging
nights would taunt to dare to write to each for monstrous ends."
On page 24, there are clouds that rain "allegro tears" inhabited by stallions
that will "never acquiesce in any urge to quell our fear of gales."
On page 27, there are more awkward inversions, such as "Mount Blanc exploded
from her cargo borne."
On page 28, the famous poem "The New Colossus" is marred by two run-on
sentences created by the transformation of periods to commas.
On page 31, in a poem by Vallance one ellipsis has three dots and another has
On page 34, the "rolled up" sleeves are not hyphenated but the "new-pressed"
shirt is. The meter of "enquiring of their health with interest" is very
On page 35, there are more archaisms, such as "Thou always claimed the sun
On page 36, the meter is beyond dreadful in lines like "For fretful fear will
seize our fair city."
On page 37, the Potato of Terror is put out to spud for lines so metrically
awkward they are painful to read.
On page 38, the word worth's contains a left single quotation mark, rather than an apostrophe.
On page 38, on the very next line, the word Time's contains a right single quotation mark in place of an apostrophe.
On page 38, in another poem the word 'Tis contains a right single quotation mark in place of an apostrophe, while o'
contains a left single quotation mark.
On page 40, there is a period after the word "occasionally" where there should be a comma.
On page 40, the date format changes from "18 December 2009" without a comma, to "20 December, 2009" with a comma.
On page 41, the date format changes yet again, to "20 December 2009" without a comma.
On page 43, the archaic awkwardness continues with "Beside the Loch of
Stenness, where rise proud / The Standing Stones ..."
On page 43, there is also a transcription error: "Some vainly seeking land,
come [some] scurvy-dead."
On page 44, the two tribute poems to Vera Rich contain lines of wrenching
awkwardness, like "And now discover here my rest begins."
On page 47, the first poem is not attributed to a poet. A hyphen appears where
an em dash is indicated.
On page 48, the word "black-choked" was converted into two words by the
transformation of a hyphen into an em dash.
On page 50, there is yet another inversion: "Upon the ship of night I will
On page 51, the word "steadfast" is misspelled "stedfast," then is later spelled correctly in the same poem ("Bright Star" by John Keats).
On page 51, inversions continue to reign with "Her russet hair shines bright
as copper spun."
On page 51, there is yet another archaism: "Her parted lips make unspoken
behest." Does anyone talk like that, really?
On page 54, awkwardness continue to abound with "So little time remained him"
and "so clearly did that game reveal the score."
On page 55, there is another inversion: "Across the valley sets an orange
On page 58, there is a rush of awkwardness: for instance, "until their glow is
hopeless to discern."
On page 59, "seed-spattered" is hyphenated, but "moon drunk" and "love drunk"
are not. Archaisms and inversions continue to abound.
On page 60, Ye Olde Englische continues to rule with "And clear the spurge
from round the peonies."
On page 60, inversions continue to dominate and decimate with "and he comes
round, her tender cheek to puncture."
On page 64, the time warp reenergizes its portal with "Resistance, whence the
air derives its force."
On page 64, things go from bad to verse with "the air from out the mouth."
On page 65, the parade of errors continues with "The lilacs that made the
night heavy with scent, a purple was [wash] against the stars, are gone."
On page 64, inversions also continue to abound with "Each sonnet's getting
harder now to write." (One can hardly disagree at this point.)
On page 74, the medieval festivities continue with a picnic that "Is gaily
with a feast of pastries laid."
On page 66, inversions again dominate with "My world of paints I splatter,
like a child."
On page 67, a sonnet by John Keats is marred by multiple punctuation errors.
On page 72, Ye Middle Englische again resurfaces with "The blackbird's hour
the time that steels / the twilight's lour ..."
On page 76, the month of May appears as "may" and "May" in the same poem.
On page 78, the term 60th. is treated as an abbreviation, with a period at the end, as if something follows the "th" (what?).
On page 99, Emily Dickinson's name is misspelled "Dickenson."
On page 110, the title is missing from the first poem on the page.
On page 110, the word "you're" twice has a space after the apostrophe.
On page 113, there is an incorrect comma between the subject and the verb "came."
On page 120, the reserved symbol appears after the word "detritus" without a space, rather than after the reserved name "Play-Doh."
On page 120, on the very next line the reserved symbol appears with a space, after the reserved name "Mattel."
On pages 124-126, there are multiple punctuation errors in the poems of Sara
Russell, including missing periods and the use of commas where semicolons are
On page 140, in the middle of a quotation the font suddenly changes size.
On page 183, the title of one translated poem is not italicized but
the second one is. In one attribution the poet's name appears with an apostrophe, but not in
On page 193, there are grammatical errors: "Daoism and Buddhism likely also
have influenced Ma Lai, [being] thought systems which have had [a] lasting
effect on Chinese culture ..."
On page 193, there is a grammatical error: "The Chinese artist may come into
conflict with ideological strictures of their [his/her] society ..."
On page 194, there is a grammatical error: "The native sees clearly what's in
the original though [but] finds it difficult to recreate something elegant and
true in another tongue."
On page 233, the bio of John Keats concludes: "His sonnets are as equally as
memorable as the rest of his magnificent poetry."
On page 237, rather than "First Vice President" the term 1st. is used, with a period
at the end, as if something follows the "st"
On page 246, Vallance's name appears incorrectly in his own Author Index, as
"Vallance, Richard ix, ..." (the "ix" should have been shifted to the right, to
appear with the other page numbers).
The page numbers attributed to Vallance appear on three highly disorganized
lines, broken randomly, with the third line bleeding back into the name column.
On page 247, the Title Index begins with a note that the article "the" is "clearly part of the title" of one poem, as if it is not
clearly part of the
titles of other poems containing "the."
The comments about the poem in question ("The. Punctuation. Man") are,
ironically, incorrectly punctuated.
The book concludes on page 251 with yet more errors, as the title of the poem
appears incorrectly in the final note, lacking the spaces (i.e.,
I found these anomalies during one quick scan through the book. How is it
possible that the editor-in-chief of a major sonnet anthology was unable to find and correct these errors, when he had
many months and a staff of co-editors and other proofreaders at his disposal?
How is it possible that I pointed out a number of these errors to him months ago,
and they still haven't been corrected?