Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThese two volumes make up the first half of the largest anthology of 20th-century American poetry ever attempted. Over 200 poets are represented, all born before 1914, and presented in birth-date order. The scale here is unprecedented, and the spectrum broad, inclusive and generous. The effect is breathtaking. The first volume begins with anonymous ballads, establishing a theme of popular song that is sustained throughout both volumes, including blues, folks songs and Broadway tunes. This suggests the music that was in the air at the time much of this work was being written, as well as asserting the value of these songs as poetry in their own right. "I can tell the wind is rising/ leaves trembling on the trees/ umm hmm hmm hmm/ all I need my little sweet woman/ and to keep my company" (Robert Johnson, vol. 2). The emphasis in vol. 1 is on the richness of modernism, with enormous selections of Robert Frost, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, H.D., Marianne Moore and T.S. Eliot. Several of these are long enough to comprise an entire volume of selected poems. (Mina Loy gets more than the usual page or two.) The selections are solidly edited, presenting the most representative and well-known poems across each writer's oeuvre. The second volume includes many more poets, and tends toward shorter selections, though Hart Crane is featured prominently. Multiple and simultaneous layers of American poetics are represented side-by-side in both volumes: lyricism, early confessional poetry, Imagism, light verse, Objectivism, the Harlem Renaissance, hoaxes, the Fugitives, among others. One of the greatest pleasures of these books is discovering (or re-discovering) poets like Abraham Lincoln Gillespie, Lola Ridge, John G. Neihardt or dadaist Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven, energetic and distinct poets who have long since been dropped from most cullings, or were never included in the first place. This anthology, edited by Robert Hass, John Hollander, Carolyn Kizer, Nathaniel Mackey and Marjorie Perloff, will be an invaluable and lasting resource to anyone interested in American poetry. Its inclusive take on the multiplicity of work leaves all the differences intact, all the layers in context. It brilliantly illuminates the shifting substance of American poetry. (Apr.) FYI: Geoffrey O'Brien is editor-in-chief of the Library of America, and the author of The Times Square Story and other nonfiction, as well as of Floating City: Selected Poems 1978-1995. His The Browser's Ecstasy: A Meditation on Reading is due from Counterpoint in June. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library JournalPart of the distinguished Library of America series, this impressive anthology was edited by Robert Hass, John Hollander, Carolyn Kizer, Nathaniel Mackey, and Marjorie Perloff, who arranged the poets chronologically by date of birth. Readers will appreciate the diversity of the poetry, including generous selections of the high moderns (Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, Elizabeth Bishop, and Theodore Roethke). There is also vers de societ (Dorothy Parker, Phyllis McGinley, Ogden Nash, and Virginia Adair). African American writers include Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Richard Wright, and Claude McKay. Even musicians and composers are well represented (Woody Guthrie, Bessie Smith, Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, and Oscar Hammerstein). The two volumes contain more than 1500 poems by over 200 different poets, with excellent biographical and textual notes and an index of first lines. Essential for all poetry collections.--Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Findlay, IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
PritchardIt is a remarkable feat of assemblage, with excellent capsule biographies and explanatory notes at the end of each volume -- the biographies, especially, are well worth reading.
The New York Times Book Review
Read an Excerpt
Walter Conrad Arensberg
Arithmetical Progression of the Verb "To Be"
On a sheet of paper
dropped with the intention of demolishing
by the simple subtraction of a necessary plane
draw a line that leaves the present
carrying forward to the uncounted columns
of the spatial ruin
now considered as complete
the remainder of the past.
The act of disappearing
which in the three-dimensional
is the fate of the convergent
under the form of the immediate
arrested in a perfect parallel
Edward Arlington Robinson
The Poor Relation
No longer torn by what she knows
And sees within the eyes of others,
Her doubts are when the daylight goes,
Her fears are for the few she bothers.
She tells them it is wholly wrong
Of her to stay alive so long;
And when she smiles her forehead shows
A crinkle that had been her mother's.
Beneath her beauty, blanched with pain,
And wistful yet for being cheated,
A child would seem to ask again
A question many times repeated;
But no rebellion has betrayed
Her wonder at what she has paid
For memories that have no stain,
For triumph born to be defeated.
To those who come for what she was
The few left who know where to find her
She clings, for they are all she has;
And she may smile when they remind her,
As heretofore, of what they know
Of roses that are still to blow
By ways where not so much as grass
Remains of what she sees behind, her.
They stay a while, and having done
What penance or the past requires,
They go, and leave her there alone
To count her chimneys and her spires.
Her lip shakes when they go away,
And yet she would not have them stay;
She knows as well as anyone
That Pity, having played, soon tires.
But one friend always reappears,
A good ghost, not to be forsaken;
Whereat she laughs and has no fears
Of what a ghost may reawaken,
But welcomes, while she wears and mends
The poor relation's odds and ends,
Her truant from a tomb of years
Her power of youth so early taken.
Poor laugh, more slender than her song
It seems; and there are none to hear it
With even the stopped ears of the strong
For breaking heart or broken spirit.
The friends who clamored for her place,
And would have scratched her for her face,
Have lost her laughter for so long
That none would care enough to fear it.
None live who need fear anything
From her, whose losses are their pleasure;
The plover with a wounded wing
Stays not the flight that others measure
So there she waits, and while she lives,
And death forgets, and faith forgives,
Her memories go foraging
For bits of childhood song they treasure.
And like a giant harp that hums
On always, and is always blending
The coming of what never comes
With what has past and had an ending,
The City trembles, throbs, and pounds
Outside, and through a thousand sounds
The small intolerable drums
Of Time are like slow drops descending.
Bereft enough to shame a sage
And given little to long sighing,
With no illusion to assuage
The lonely changelessness of dying,
Unsought, unthought-of, and unheard,
She sings and watches like a bird,
Safe in a comfortable cage
From which there will be no more flying.
SARAH N. CLEGHORN
The Golf Links Lie So Near the Mill
The golf links lies so near the mill
That, almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.
Still must I tamely
Talk sense with these others?
Before I shall be with you again,
Magnificently saying nothing.
WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS
I have had my dreamlike others
and it has come to nothing, so that
I remain now carelessly
with feet planted on the ground
and look up at the sky
feeling my clothes about me,
the weight of my body in my shoes,
the rim of my hat, air passing in and out
at my noseand decide to dream no more.
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