Reasons to Get Stranded: Poetry to Read on a Desert Island

Erica Goss

Let’s say, just for the fun of it, that you were left alone on some tropical island with an unknown amount of time ahead of you. Luckily, having anticipated just this emergency, you had the foresight to pack twenty books that would consume the hours while you await rescue.

Were this to happen to me, I’d want my tried-and-true books, ones I make new discoveries in no matter how many times I’ve read them. With a few exceptions, most of the books on this list are over twenty years old, some far older; i.e., The Faber Book of Modern Poetry, published in 1936. Browsing through my copy, I found “Swans” by Lawrence Durrell. Here’s the first stanza:


Fraudulent perhaps in that they gave

No sense of muscle but a swollen languor

Though moved by webs; yet idly, idly

As soap-bubbles drift from a clay-pipe

They mowed the lake in…

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