Mortal Men, All

Observing National Poetry Month 2024 again today, I’m reminded how little mention I’ve made of those poets whose names and works have achieved high honors over many generations. Do a search of “greatest poets of all time,” and AI will provide a list of twenty names with William Shakespeare in the number one slot.

Of course, AI hedges its bets, indicating this isn’t an exhaustive list … and adds the usual reminder to verify critical facts. I’m always amused how AI bends over backwards (figuratively!) to avoid rigidly dogmatic answers! Remember the old advertising trope:  Nine out of ten doctors agree …? Looks like this trope has been suitably updated to reflect our digital age.

People who are familiar with my blog know I’ve mentioned a number of poets whose works I admire. Because I’m an incurable writer of sonnets, Shakespeare has definitely earned high marks in my book. There are others but (as the sonnet below reflects) it’s difficult to outdo the Bard.

When writing poetry, I’m reluctant to have footnotes (asterisks) for explanation. My preference is for a poem to stand on its own, apart from explanatory comments. Alas, with this sonnet, I felt the comments were necessary. James Mabbe (the first asterisk) isn’t well-known today and the phrase “days of June” (the double asterisk) is slightly oblique though more readers may be familiar with James Russell Lowell.

The Poets, a sonnet

There’s good reason to hold the poets (referred to in this sonnet) in high esteem. Their works have withstood critical reviews over time. However, I wouldn’t debate the AI list or any of the other lists offered online. Choosing favorites is a subjective effort. I simply offer mine in the sonnet above.

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