State of the Art: A Chronicle of American Poetry, 1988%E2%80%932014

David Lehman. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8229-4439-3
For the 27 years that the Best American Poetry series has been published, and for two "best of" editions, Lehman has invited a guest editor to select at least 50 and no more than 75 poems, with a foreword provided by Lehman himself. Those forewords are collected for the first time in this enjoyable book. They reflect general trends in poetry and criticism, along with Lehman's own concerns and his relationships with guest editors including Terrence Hayes, Charles Simic, Harold Bloom, Adrienne Rich, and Rita Dove. In 1992, Lehman called poetry "a burning issue," and that sentiment resonates throughout the collection, which does not shy away from timeliness. The foreword for 1990 references the fall of the Berlin Wall. Poetry slams are discussed with curiosity and welcome in 1995, despite the derision of some critics. Bill Clinton's creation of National Poetry Month is discussed, as are criticisms of it. Throughout all this, recurring motifs include the frequent declarations of poetry's death, the need for critics who are not poets, and the question of audience. To Lehman's mind, "poetry is unkillable" and readers are to be found everywhere, while the fate of American poetry is to be ever-evolving, not always good, but never to be dismissed. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/16/2015
Release date: 03/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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