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The Best of the Best American Poetry


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David Lehman, the series editor of The Best American Poetry, is also the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. His eleven books of poetry include The Morning Line, Playlist, Poems in the Manner Of, New and Selected Poems, When a Woman Loves a Man, and The Daily Mirror. The most recent of his many nonfiction books is One Hundred Autobiographies: A Memoir. He lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York. Robert Pinsky was the nation's Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000. An acclaimed poet and scholar of poetry, he is also an internationally renowned man of letters. His Selected Poems was published in paperback in March 2012. His other books include The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide and his bestselling translation The Inferno of Dante, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He teaches at Boston University and is the poetry editor at Slate.


"The strength of [The Best of the Best American Poetry] is its sense of subjectivity, the way these poems illustrate their editor's aesthetic, and in so doing, tell us something of how poetry operates in the world...These are poems that take the personal and make it universal, not by grand statements but by specific observation, building a common vision out of the very things that hold us apart."

In this second "Best of the Best"-the first being Harold Bloom's cantankerous tenth anniversary selection-guest editor former poet laureate Pinsky (The Figured Wheel) chooses his 100 favorites from among the nearly 1,900 poems appearing in the annual sampling of magazine verse since its 1988 debut. No year's work is neglected, and only 15 poems replicate Bloom's selections. As one might expect, the majority of poets included are fixtures in the contemporary canon (e.g., John Ashbery, Rita Dove, Louise Gluck, Robert Hass, W.S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich). Pinsky favors the plain style ("a mannerless speaking," to borrow a phrase from Rodney Jones's poem here), and despite a scattering of both traditional formalists (James Merrill, A.E. Stallings) and poets of more experimental mien (Anne Carson, Harryette Mullen), the ambience is one of a cocktail party where the overlapping conversations of observant, thoughtful people are heard as a collective murmur, their distinctive styles subsumed by a general flatness of tone, diction, and subject. Still, several compelling voices (Stephen Dobyns, A.R. Ammons, J. Allyn Rosser, Richard Wilbur, Kevin Young) cut bracingly through the hubbub. VERDICT For libraries lacking the annuals, this single-volume compilation will suitably represent the flavor of the series as a whole.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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