American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Volume 2: E.E. Cummings to May Swenson

American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, Volume 2: E.E. Cummings to May Swenson


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“The editing is more than brilliant: It is nearly unimaginable how the Library of America team managed to do so much so well. . . . Every possible kind of poem is here in its best examples. No one has ever done a better anthology of modern American poetry, or even come close.” — Talk

This second volume of the landmark two-volume Library of America anthology of twentieth-century poetry, organized chronologically by the poets’ birthdates, takes the reader from E.E. Cummings (1894–1962) to May Swenson (1913–1989). In the wake of the modernist renaissance, American poets continued to experiment with new techniques and themes, while the impact of the Depression and World War II and the continuing political struggle of African Americans became part of the fabric of a literature in transition. New schools and definitions of poetry seemed often to divide the literary scene. This was the era of the Harlem Renaissance, the Objectivists, the Fugitives, the proletarian poets. It was also an era of vigorously individuated voices—knotty, defiant, sometimes eccentric.

The range of tone and subject matter is immense: here are Melvin B. Tolson’s swirlingly allusive Harlem portraits, Phyllis McGinley’s elegant verse transcriptions of suburbia, May Swenson’s playful meditations on the laws of physics. The diversity of formal approaches includes the extreme linguistic experiments of Eugene Jolas and Abraham Lincoln Gillespie, Rolfe Humphries’s adaptation of traditional Welsh meter, the haiku of Richard Wright, the ballads of Helen Adam and Elder Olson, the epigrams of J.V. Cunningham. A selection of light verse is joined by lyrics from the era’s greatest songwriters, including Robert Johnson, Woody Guthrie, and Ira Gershwin. Several important long poems are presented complete, including Hart Crane’s The Bridge, Louis Zukofsky’s Poem beginning “The” and Robert Penn Warren’s Audubon: A Vision. Rounding out the volume are such infrequently anthologized figures as Vladimir Nabokov, James Agee, Tennessee Williams, and John Cage.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781883011789
Publisher: Library of America
Publication date: 03/28/2000
Series: Library of America Series , #5
Pages: 1000
Sales rank: 1,229,380
Product dimensions: 5.22(w) x 8.15(h) x 1.22(d)

About the Author

Robert Hass is one of America's most acclaimed poets, winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He was poet laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997.

John Hollander (1929–2013) published nearly two dozen books of poetry, including Selected Poetry (1993), Figurehead (1999), and A Draft of Light (2008), as well as five books of criticism. He received the Bollingen Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship, and was Sterling Professor of English at Yale University.

Carolyn Kizer (1925-2014) was the author of more than a dozen works of poetry, prose, and translation. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1985.

Nathaniel Mackey is a poet, novelist, anthologist, literary critic, and editor. He is the Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University and a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.

Marjorie Perloff teaches courses and writes on twentieth and twenty-first century poetry and poetics. She is Professor Emerita of English at Stanford University and Florence R. Scott Professor of English Emerita at the University of Southern California.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

R. P. Blackmur


The wind was in another country, and
the day had gathered to its heart of noon
the sum of silence, heat, and stricken time.
Not a ripple spread. The sea mirrored
perfectly all the nothing in the sky.
We had to walk about to keep our eyes
from seeing nothing, and our hearts from stopping
at nothing. Then most suddenly we saw
horizon on horizon lifting up
out of the sea's edge a shining mountain
sun-yellow and sea-green; against it surf
flung spray and spume into the miles of sky.
Somebody said mirage, and it was gone,
but there I have been living ever since.


Long Distance Moan

I'm flying to South Carolina
                           I gotta go there this time
I'm flying to South Carolina
                           I gotta go there this time
Woman in Dallas Texas
                     is 'bout to make me lose my mind

Long distance, longdistance
                          will you please give me a credit call
Long distance, long distance
                          will you give me a please cr-credit call
Want to talk to my gal in South Carolina
                                 who looks like a Indian squaw

Just want to ask my baby
                         what in the world is she been doing
I want to ask my baby
                      what in the world is she been doing
Give your loving to another joker
                                and it's sure gonna be my ruin

Hey long distance
                 I can't help but moan
                I can't help but moan
My baby's voice sound so sweet
                          oh I'm gonna break this telephone

You don't know you love
                        your rider till she is so far from you
You don't know you love your rider
                                    until she's so far from you

You can get long distance moan
                             and you don't care what you do

I say no use standing and buzzing
                               to get my brownie off my mind
No use standing and bawling
                            get my baby off my mind
This long distance moan
                        about to worry me to death this time

Table of Contents

"All in green went my love riding"1
"in Just-/spring when the world is mud-"2
"Tumbling-hair/picker of buttercups"3
"Humanity i love you"3
"O sweet spontaneous"4
"stinging/gold swarms"5
"between green/mountains"6
"Babylon slim/-ness of"6
"Buffalo Bill's/defunct"7
"the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls"8
"god pity me whom(god distinctly has)"8
"Dick Mid's large bluish face without eyebrows"9
"Spring is like a perhaps hand"9
Poem, or Beauty Hurts Mr. Vinal10
"she being Brand"12
"on the Madam's best april the"13
"next to of course god america i"15
"lis/-ten//you know what i mean when"15
"my sweet old etcetera"16
"Among/these/red pieces of"17
"in spite of everything"18
"since feeling is first"18
"i sing of Olaf glad and big"18
"twi-/is -Light bird"20
"a clown's smirk in the skull of a baboon"20
"somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond"21
"the boys i mean are not refined"22
"as freedom is a breakfastfood"23
"anyone lived in a pretty how town"24
"my father moved through dooms of love"25
"plato told"27
"pity this busy monster, manunkind"28
"a grin without a"29
Proud Riders30
Test Paper32
From the Green Book of Yfan33
Mater Dolorosa35
Words of an Old Woman36
Hasbrouck and the Rose37
Bill Gets Burned39
"On Brooklyn Bridge I saw a man drop dead"42
"I met in a merchant's place"42
"The shopgirls leave their work"42
"How shall we mourn you who are killed and wasted"42
"My work done, I lean on the window-sill"43
"In the shop, she, her mother, and grandmother"43
The Idiot43
"She who worked patiently"43
"Her work was to count linings--"43
"The house-wreckers have left the door and a staircase"44
Aphrodite Vrania44
"Out of the hills the trees bulge"44
"How difficult for me is Hebrew"44
"I have learnt the Hebrew blessing before eating bread"44
"After I had worked all day at what I earn my living"44
"The Hebrew of your poets, Zion"45
"Though our thoughts often, we ourselves"45
"Among the heaps of brick and plaster lies"45
Millinery District ["The clouds ..."]46
"A dead gull in the road"47
"I like this secret walking"47
Rainy Season47
"Of course, we must die"48
My grandfather, dead long before I was born"48
"A grove of small trees, branches thick with berries"48
Millinery District ["Many fair hours ..."]48
Free Verse49
from Early History of a Writer50
Empty Bed Blues57
Everyday Alchemy59
To One Loved Wholly Within Wisdom59
To Mr. Maunder Maunder, Professional Poet60
To the Powers of Desolation61
To the Natural World: at 3761
Try Tropic62
All Around the Town63
Bounding Line64
Hymn to Yellow64
The Weed65
Cotton Song68
Georgia Dusk69
Evening Song70
Portrait in Georgia71
Seventh Street71
Storm Ending72
Her Lips Are Copper Wire72
The Gods Are Here74
This Amber Sunstream75
Axle Song75
The Near House76
So Simple77
Where I Saw the Snake77
The First Poem78
Winter Nocturne: The Hospital80
"To an Amiable Child"81
Creatures in the Zoo82
A Purplexicon of Dissynthegrations84
Ol' Man River87
Little Girl Blue89
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered90
Dead Man's Corner92
A House of the Eighties94
The Omelet of A. MacLeish95
Newsreel LIII99
Waltz Against the Mountains101
Something Starting Over104
I Can't Get Started107
They All Laughed109
Elegy for Melusine from the Intensive Care Ward111
Red-Headed Intern, Taking Notes113
Scene: A Bedside in the Witches' Kitchen113
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?115
A History of the Caesars117
The Alchemist121
My Voice Not Being Proud121
Men Loved Wholly Beyond Wisdom122
Sub Contra122
Winter Swan123
Dark Summer123
Short Summary125
Roman Fountain125
Baroque Comment126
Heard by a Girl127
Several Voices Out of a Cloud128
The Dragonfly131
Almost a God134
Long Distance Moan135
from Elegy in the Manner of a Requiem in Memory of D. H. Lawrence137
History of Education140
Slow Curtain141
Why Must You Know?141
Would You Think?142
Fish Food: An Obituary to Hart Crane143
Come Over and Help Us144
Anathema. Maranatha!147
In the Bathtub, to Mnemosyne148
Esprit d'Escalier149
Cross Questions149
from John Brown's Body150
American Names154
Cotton Mather156
Daniel Boone156
Metropolitan Nightmare157
Winter Tenement160
from Chorus for Survival166
The Cage of Voices168
from Libretto for the Republic of Liberia170
from Harlem Gallery176
April Mortality183
Ghostly Tree183
The Rounds and Garlands Done184
The Moon and Spectator185
Fragmentary Stars185
The Horn186
The Figurehead187
Grapes Making187
For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen190
Repose of Rivers199
The Wine Menagerie199
At Melville's Tomb201
The Bridge202
O Carib Isle!242
The Broken Tower243
Take My Hand, Precious Lord245
Fern Song246
Frog Song247
True Western Summer248
from The Indians in the Woods249
Girl Help251
The Reader252
Winter Garden252
Helen Grown Old253
For the Father of Sandro Gulotta254
The Ancient Ones: Betatakin255
Garden Note I, Los Altos256
Garden Note II, March256
from The Wild Party257
from Lolita263
On Translating "Eugene Onegin"265
Santo Domingo Corn Dance266
Mr. Pope269
Ode to the Confederate Dead269
The Twelve272
Last Days of Alice273
The Wolves274
Aeneas at Washington275
The Ivory Tower276
The Mediterranean277
Sonnets at Christmas279
The Swimmers280
February Ground283
Walt Whitman285
Two Songs of Advent288
The Magpie's Shadow288
The Solitude of Glass291
Vacant Lot292
The Cold293
The Barnyard294
Wild Sunflower295
The Realization296
Apollo and Daphne296
The Fable297
The Fall of Leaves297
The Slow Pacific Swell298
To a Young Writer299
By the Road to the Sunnyvale Air-Base300
Elegy on a Young Airedale Bitch Lost Two Years Since in the Salt-Marsh300
On Teaching the Young301
Time and the Garden301
In Praise of California Wines302
To the Moon303
Long Gone304
Scotty Has His Say305
Sister Lou306
Southern Road308
Memphis Blues309
Ma Rainey311
Slim in Atlanta313
Children's Children314
Chillen Get Shoes315
Sporting Beasley316
Old Lem321
A Broken View323
Onion Fields324
By Night325
The Curse326
While I Slept326
The Sound I Listened For326
As Easily As Trees327

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