Andronik, Catherine M. 2007. Wildly Romantic.
The full title for this one is Wildly Romantic: The English Romantic Poets: The Mad, The Bad, and the Dangerous. The author is Catherine M. Andronik. I'd not heard of her before, but she did an excellent, excellent job with this one. Her style? I loved it. It had just the right touch of wit and sarcasm and humor to be charming. It was full of information. It was well written. It was well organized. And I love her use of primary sources. And I love how she arranges the poems.
I don't know how many teens are going to pick this one up on their own. I don't know if "Romantic" poets are even remotely popular with the younger crowd these days. I don't even know what the average English teacher teaches anymore. If there's a unit on Byron, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, and the rest of the gang or not. I know I studied these in school. I don't remember which year--although it would have had to have been 10th or 12th because Mrs. Lippe was the teacher. I doubt I'll ever forget that poetry is "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Or the concept of "willing suspension of disbelief." I can't give all the credit to high school. I was an English major after all. And British literature was required. So I revisited these guys a lot. But my best exposure to the Romantics--the forerunners of the cult of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll--was Dr. Palmer. I took a graduate course in the romantic poets. One full semester of Byron, Keats, and Percy and Mary Shelley. The course focus was divided between studying their lives--reading biographies and such--and reading the poems and Frankenstein. So over the course of four months, there was a lot of information to soak up. You really and truly gained an appreciation for it. If you didn't learn to love it by the end, well, then that would have been one miserable semester. Of my classmates, no one ever spoke up and said they disliked it. And I know I certainly loved it.
I tell you this not to bore you to tears but to explain that I may be a bit biased. I don't really admit to loving the poems themselves. I feel that some appeal to me more than others. A few really stand out as favorites of mine. But most of the others, well, not so much. But the biographies of the key players--that truly fascinates me. I think that these poets will appeal to lots of readers--if given a chance--because they truly were unique individuals. Byron with his "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" persona. All of the poets are presented as human--completely dysfunctional--and therefore interesting. Drug addiction is nothing new. Promiscuity is nothing new either. And some of these poets really knew how to get around. The poets. The time period. The culture. Everything is just so interesting. And Catherine Andronik does a wonderful job with it.
Here's a dramatization of "When We Two Parted" by Byron