cover image The Best American Poetry, 1991

The Best American Poetry, 1991

Mark Strand. Collier Books, $12.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-02-069844-9

The fourth rendition of the Best American Poetry series, assembling the work of veritable unknowns and distinguished poets, shows an amazing array of form as well as a high level of execution. Formal approaches range from David Trinidad's ``Reruns,'' a set of Haiku evoking vintage television shows, to Alfred Corn's dramatic monologue, ``Infernal Regions and the Invisible Girl,'' and J. D. McClatchy's delightful verse essay on friendship. Though the subjects of these poems are as varied as their forms, the anthology, in keeping with the temper of the times, seems unusually rife with elegies, invoking a muse of grief and outraged justice, as evinced in Jane Kenyon's stately tercets in ``Let Evening Come'' and Laurence Lieberman's mournful narration in ``Dark Songs'' of the trials of slaves and Jews in the 18th-century Caribbean. This elegiac mood makes the book more rather than less appealing, even as it reinforces editor Strand's ( The Continuous Life ) belief in how poetry serves us: ``The way poetry has of setting our internal houses in order, of formalizing emotion difficult to articulate, is one of the reasons we still depend on it in moments of crisis.'' (Sept.)