In their introductions, editors Swensen and St. John, both accomplished and forward-thinking poets, outline the contention that spurred this anthology: for a long time, poetry has been divided, or has divided itself, into two basic camps, traditional and experimental. In contemporary American poetry, the editors argue, and the poets collected here demonstrate, these distinctions no longer make sense, as poets now draw equally from both traditions, often in the same poem. Hence these generous selections from 73 poets who seek to blend, in varying degrees, the straightforward clarity and formal rigor of the long poetic tradition with the disjunction, self-consciousness and obscurity of experimental poetics. Some names will be familiar to the casual reader of American poetry (John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, Robert Hass); some are well known in poetry circles (Brenda Hillman, D.A. Powell, Donald Revell); and others are totally new to this kind of anthology, such as the amazing and subtle Martha Ronk ("When it is raining it is raining for all time then it isn't") and Bin Ramke, a master of the commingling of old and new. For serious readers of poetry, novices looking for a way in to what's new, and, perhaps especially, for poetry professors, this is a must-have book. (Mar.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Should poetry be traditional? Or experimental? For a long time, people were asked to pick sides, but there's a growing recognition that the best American poetry combines strands of both. From the truly established (John Ashbery, Robert Hass) to the edgier (Rae Armantrout, Lyn Hejinian), here are poets who know that the best work can never really be labeled. (LJ12/08)