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Big, But Not Big Enough
on September 11, 2005
I think the two volumes published thus far are only half of what's expected, but I'm not sure, as these were put into print five years ago, as far as I can tell. There is plenty to enjoy here, and some to rightfully forget. There's also plenty missing. (Attempts at political correctness can be so tedious and obvious.) For instance, on the enjoyment side, Marianne Moore's The Steeple-Jack is a wonder of construction, as is Robert Frost's obsessively worked out "Familiar with the Night." But such anthologies as this are always questioned as to the method of selection, the poets disregarded, and the poems picked. Why, for instance, was Marianne Moore's Octopus overlooked? Where are W. H. Auden, Robert Lowell, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Allen Ginsburg, and James Merrill, among so many others? Are they still to come? I hope so. And I just don't care for Gertrude Stein. Her work is unreadable and does nothing at all for me. I don't know why so much space is always allotted to her in so many anthologies. Yes, I get the point. No, I don't need 37 pages of this point. It seems her importance only lies in who she knew and how she lived, not in any actual talent she had.
If the Library of America is coming out with any more volumes to round out the twentieth century, they are taking their sweet time about it. I really can't wait that long. In the meantime, a new American anthology is due out from Oxford in 2006, edited by David Lehman. I've had a sneak peek, and it's inclusive and won't disappoint.