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.
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