The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

Rita Dove, Editor
Edited by Rita Dove. Penguin, $40 (602p) ISBN 978-014-310643-2
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Former U.S. Poet Laureate Dove takes a fresh look at the cannon of 20th-century American poetry in this hefty anthology. Dove by no means seeks to include an example of every kind of poem written during the century; rather, as she poetically says in her introduction, she picked “the poems I see emblazoned on pennants along the road we have just traversed.” Later she writes, “This is the proper moment to look back—after the first decade of the twenty-first century has given us the illusion of distances, after we have reconciled ourselves to owning this scary new millennium...The past is never more truly the past than now.” Of course readers will find classroom staples—Eliot’s “Prufrock” and “The Waste Land”; Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”; Hughes’s “The Negro Speaks of Rivers””—but also less of some poets (James Dickey gets only one poem, for instance) and longer poems (by poets such as John Ashbery and Frank Bidart) than one might expect in such a book. Dove shifts the emphasis slightly, suggesting, perhaps, that a highly esoteric poet like Nathaniel Mackey is as worthy of our attention as, say Carolyn Forché. This book is sure to become an important resource for those interested in poetry, and especially students, for decades to come. (Nov.)
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