THE BEST AMERICAN POETRY 2002
This installment of the venerable series is refreshing for what it isn't: a compendium of September 11 poems. In fact, Creeley, selected by series editor David Lehman to sit in the revolving editor's chair, makes no mention of 9/11 in his six-page introduction, while Lehman's own seven-page performance is split between a paean to poet laureate Billy Collins and a discussion of September 11's poetic effects, with one paragraph devoted to the choice of Creeley. Yet Creeley's own choice of poems is balanced and satisfying, providing space for contemplation, while opening a rare window on dissent. Along with fine poems from John Ashbery, Frank Bidart, Anne Carson, W.S. Merwin, Sharon Olds, Carl Phillips and Charles Wright, we get Amiri Baraka's "The Golgotha Local" ("But if you understood, the entire question, the pause, the certain ugliness/ Of what you see, if between they legs you got to look, if you is ruled by thief and/ crook. If you is more than what you be..."), a powerful Alice Notley elegy, Benjamin Friedlander's "Independence Day" ("Let freedom bling/ Bling, Shaq. Like/ A dripping popsicle torn in half"), Steve Malmude's "Perfect Front Door" and Mong-Lan's epic "Trail": "what is the remedy for momentum for mania for a deciduous heart?" These and many other poems here will challenge readers to find their own remedies. (Sept. 17)
Forecast:"Since its inception in 1988, The Best American Poetry series has achieved brand-name status in the literary world," notes the press chat, and few readers or writers would dispute it. Look for the "return to poetry" prompted by the attacks, and perhaps more than usual review attention to spur sales of this volume, which remains some readers' only yearly contact with poetry.