The Best American Poetry 1990

Jorie Graham, Author, David Lehman, Editor
Jorie Graham, Author, David Lehman, Editor Collier Books $11 (0p) ISBN 978-0-02-032785-1
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Now in its third year, this series again showcases the dizzying vitality of celebrated and little-known American poets. Graham ( The End of Beauty ) salutes work that is singularly American in its ``signature ambition'': ``both to happen fast and have the experience .''xxxii And the collection bears out her contention that the poems, culled from three dozen magazines, sport distinctive voices, yet not at the expense of imagery or form. Forms are wonderfully diverse, ranging from a classical debate in Anthony Hecht's ``Eclogue of the Shepherd and the Townie''70 to Donald Hall's bitter lamentation, ``Praise for Death,''53 and Anne Carson's abstract but evocative ``The Life of Towns.''13 Moods swing from comic despair to mockery to elegy; something for every reader is here. Still, despite Graham's assertion that ``precision remained the watershed criterion,''xxxi it is likely that only devotees of Language Poets--those dismantlers of conventionally articulate speech--will fully appreciate the fruit that lies beneath the undeniable difficulty of some prose poetry and poetic experiments. (Oct.)
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