The Best American Poetry 1997

James Tate, Editor, David Lehman, Editor
James Tate, Editor, David Lehman, Editor Scribner Book Company $18.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-81452-0
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1958-7
Hardcover - 268 pages - 978-0-684-81454-4
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4391-0597-9
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For the anthology's 10th anniversary, Pulitzer Prize-winning guest editor Tate has selected a fine array of work by both the old guard (Ginsberg, Ashbery, Ammons, Strand, Walcott) and such talented but less familiar poets as Nin Andrews, Joshua Clover, Matthew Lippman and Maureen Seaton. What unites these various voices is a distinctive, plain-spoken diction; as Tate notes in the introduction, today's poets ""speak the language of our time."" Examples include poet/performance artist Jayne Cortez's bizarre yet stirring ""The Heavy Headed Dance"" (""I am dancing &/ on my head/ is the spotted skunk/ whose scent did not protect it/ from Mr. & Mrs. Archibald of Texas""); Charlie Smith's paean to beds (""Terrible beds, soft beds, wily, elusive beds""); and Charles Wright's professorial litany: ""I think of landscape incessantly,/ mountains and rivers, lost lakes/ Where sunsets festoon and override,/ The scald of wheat fields, light-licked and poppy-smeared."" Plugging into a peculiarly American form of spoken observation, the poems draw us sharply--sometimes painfully as in Karen Volkman's depiction of Miami in ""Infernal""--into particular places and times. Contributor's notes and comments, some running several pages, provide welcome context and, often, entertainment (""I seemed unable to avoid sounding like a fawning, overzealous, possibly annoying, dithering nut"" from Amy Gerstler). The whole is graceful, unpedantic and inclusive. David Lehman is the series editor. (Sept.)
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