The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine

Edited by Don Share and Christian Wiman. Univ. of Chicago, $20 (224p) ISBN 978-0-226-75070-5
Founded in the flower of modernism, important (and importantly unpartisan) during the clash of styles and schools in the 1960s, and resurgent (as well as well-funded) today, the magazine out of Chicago has long had a place at the center of U.S. verse. Share and Wiman—who now hold the titles of editor and senior editor—select a delightful and powerful set of poems from the magazine’s history. Though the arrangement avoids chronological order, the earliest and the most recent years stand out, from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and Isaac Rosenberg’s WWI poetry to 21st-century work by Ange Mlinko and Laura Kasischke. In between come Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, Lucille Clifton, and more leading lights, though the real distinction—emphasized by the order—lies in the poems from five or 50 years ago whose authors never became world-famous, such as the bittersweet rhymed quatrains in “On Leaving the Bachelorette Brunch,” by the late Rachel Wetzsteon. Tantalizing bits of prose from the magazine appear, almost like bookmarks, interspersed among poems: the philosopher Richard Rorty, for example, confesses, “I now wish that I had spent somewhat more of my life with verse.” With its friendly layout and its relative brevity, the volume feels like an extended issue of the magazine; it may find one life as a gift book, but it should find another as pleasure reading, especially for those who have not already discovered many of the poets here. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/22/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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