The Before Columbus Foundation Poetry Anthology: Selections from the American Book Awards, 1980-1990

Ishmael Reed, Editor, Gundar Strads, Editor, J. J. Phillips, Editor W. W. Norton & Company $22.95 (429p) ISBN 978-0-393-03056-3
Touted as ``multicultural,'' this is a ragtag collection of work by well-known poets (Ai, Amiri Baraka, Edward Dorn, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg) and a large selection of poetry from the margins of American culture. Some of these poems surprise with their freshness (as does the work of Quincy Troupe), but the majority of the writing is indeed of marginal quality. Take for example Maurice Kenny's poem: ``The day I was born my father bought me a 22. / A year later my mother traded it for a violin. / Ten years later my big sister traded that / for a guitar, and gave it to her boyfriend . . . / who sold it. / Now you know why I never learned to hunt, / or learned how to play a musical instrument, / or became a Wall St. broker.'' While good-natured and unpretentious, this poem is neither memorable nor intellectually provocative. Phillips's convoluted introduction is full of nonsensical ideas such as the following: ``When Jewish-American poet Hilton Obenzinger writes poetry sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians he places his health and safety in jeopardy right here in the land of the free and home of the brave.'' (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Paperback - 476 pages - 978-0-393-30833-4
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