cover image Lit from Inside: 40 Years of Poetry from Alice James Books

Lit from Inside: 40 Years of Poetry from Alice James Books

Edited by Anne Marie Macari and Carey Salerno. Alice James (Consortium, dist.), $19.95 trade paper (350p) ISBN 978-1-882295-96-8

Alice James Books has been one of the major forces in American poetry for the past four decades, and to celebrate the press’s 40th birthday, its executive director (Salerno), also a poet herself, and Macari, a longtime Alice James author, have combed over all the books published by the press to compile this anthology of highlights. Alongside its exclusive focus on poetry, what makes Alice James unusual is its editorial process: new Alice James authors join the editorial board, in turn picking the next crop; in this way, Alice James has launched the careers of too many important American poets to list here while also charting the aesthetic swings of late 20th and early 21st-century poetry, from the early, confessional poems of Jane Kenyon (“I feel my life start up again,/ like a cutting when it grows/ the first pale and tentative/ root hair in a glass of water”); cryptic domestic scenes from Fanny Howe (“The baby/ was made in a cell/ in the silver & rose underworld”); poetry by a clear -eyed Forrest Gander (“Outside hundreds stumble by./ They are not injured. You,/ not dreaming”); the early efforts of the recently lauded Laura Kasischke (“I// begin to believe there’s nothing left/ in this world/ I could bear to eat”) to works by poets recently risen to prominence (Matthea Harvey, Reginald Dwane Betts, Brian Turner) and those now rising (Idra Novey, Stacy Gnall). This is an essential book for readers who want to understand and enjoy contemporary American poetry. (Jan.)