Every year since 1988 a major poet has selected seventy-five poems for publication in The Best American Poetry. The series has quickly grown in both sales and prestige, as poetry itself has seen a remarkable resurgence in popularity and vitality, fueled by established poets at the peak of their powers and a new generation of daring voices. As we approach the millennium, now is the opportune moment to take stock of american poetry and choose the work that will stand the test of time. Harold Bloom, a commanding presence on the American literary state, has read all 750 poems in the series and has picked the "best of the best." He precedes his selections with a compelling and highly provocative essay on the state of American letters, in which he fiercely champions the endangered realm of the aesthetic over the politically correct. Diverse in style, method, and metaphor, the seventy-five poems Bloom has chosen go a long way toward defining a contemporary canon of American poetry. This exciting volume reflects not only the taste of the current editor, but the predilections of the all-star list of poets who have contributed their time and intellect to make this series what is today: a "valuable, invaluable, supervaluable" (Beloit Poetry Journal) record of an ever-changing, always exciting art.
This 25th-Anniversary anthology celebrating Scribner's annual Best American Poetry series, each volume of which is compiled by a different notable poet, with the help of series founder and editor David Lehman, offers one kind of survey of the past quarter-century of American verse and begs the question of what it means for a poem to be among the "best." Although, necessarily, this is not a panoramic representation of all that U.S. poets have to offer, it does feature poets as aesthetically disparate as the formalist James Merrill (with a poem from 1991) and the free-form experimenter Lyn Hejinian, whose inclusion dates from 1994. There are plenty of poems by usual suspects John Ashbery, Robert Hass, James Tate as well as a few by late legends, like Allen Ginsberg, Jane Kenyon, Kenneth Koch, Adrienne Rich, and James Schuyler but the book is short on names that will be new to poetry readers, leaving poets like Major Jackson, Sarah Manguso, and C. Dale Young, all now in mid-career, to carry the torches for new poetry. Readers will find, however, many of the standout poems from various volumes, including Anne Carson's incredible "The Life of Towns" (from 1993) and Rae Armantrout's slippery "Soft Money" (from 2011). Most of all, this volume attests to what may be the rule of this series: "the best" is a matter of each editor, and each reader's tastes; no doubt, some readers will discover new favorites here.