A Book of Luminous Things collects over 300 poems, each with a short commentary by the anthology’s editor Czeslaw Milosz. The poems are organized thematically into ten categories with titles like "Nature," "People among People," and "The Secret of a Thing." Milosz includes a brief statement at the beginning of the sections that introduces the themes that he had in mind when selecting poems for that particular segment of the anthology. Each section contains works by a range of poets who are diverse in geography, culture, and time period.
In the introduction to this volume, Milosz says of his selection process:
My proposition consists in presenting poems, whether contemporary or a thousand years old, that are, with few exceptions, short, clear, readable, and, to use a compromised term, realist . . . I act like an art collector who, to spite the devotees of abstract art, arranges an exhibition of figurative painting, putting together canvases from various epochs to prove . . . that certain lines of development, different from those now universally accepted, can be traced.
It is in this spirit that Milosz places a poem by the eleventh century Chinese poet Su Tung P'o sits on the page opposite one by the twentieth century American poet Robert Morgan. Juxtapositions like this make A Book of Luminous Things a surprising and instructive anthology.
Other poets assembled in this collection include: Walt Whitman, W. S. Merwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, Wang Wei, Tu Fu, Seamus Heaney, Antonio Machado, Franz Wright, Linda Gregg, Constantine Cavafy, May Swenson, and many more.
Milosz, Czeslaw, ed. A Book of Luminous Things (1997). Harcourt, Brace & Company.