Who’s Who in Twentieth-Century World Poetry
Routledge, $29.95pb, 368pp
In his foreword to this reference work, Andrew Motion says that such books ‘exist to provoke argument’. In their preface, editors Willhardt and Parker suggest that ‘to compile such a volume as this may seem absurd; to do so successfully may be impossible’. Forewarned is forearmed, it would seem.
Despite all this, the book is useful – about the only adjective to which a reference work should reasonably aspire. Of course, it may also seek to construct an honour roll for posterity or update the canon. Or it might simply be part of a continuing battle for ‘cultural space’. In many ways, reference works like this are the counterpart of anthologies, which are also reviewed in terms of ‘who’s in and who’s out’.