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The Best American Poetry 2012: Series Editor David Lehman Paperback – September 18, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As series editor Lehman notes, anthology means, most literally, “a collection of flowers.” In which case, this year’s Best American Poetry, curated by National Book Award–winner Doty (Fire to Fire, 2008), must surely be an arrangement of white roses or sympathy lilies, so occupied are the selections with death and the dead and dying. Maxine Kumin (“Either Or”) contemplates Socrates’ assignment of a clear-cut binary to the afterlife. For Robert Gibb (“Spirit in the Dark”), the metaphysical is but a strange feeling shared between friends. But not every poem is of death. Terrance Hayes (“The Rose Has Teeth”) reminds us with chilling elegance just how hair-raising piano practice can be. Doty includes other poets without whom any “best” collection would seem incomplete, such as Billy Collins, Jane Hirschfield, and Mary Jo Salter, as well as newcomers, including Angelo Nikolopoulos (“Daffodil”) and Eduardo C. Corral (“To the Angelbeast”). As always in the series, the contributors’ notes and comments occupy a good fifth of the page-count and create context for the poets’ works. --Diego Báez

Review

"The foremost annual anthology of contemporary American poetry returns." -"Publishers Weekly"
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Best American Poetry
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 2012 ed. edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439181527
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439181522
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #678,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The title, of course, makes a claim. What's depressing about this book is that the claim may well have some validity: this collection of polished, generally competent, too often lackluster and conventional (though with a few interesting experiments in innovative diction or form), and almost totally academic verse, may well be the best that American poetry is currently capable of. Or at least, establishment American poetry. For this is very definitely an anthology of establishment poetry, that is, the poetry that is coming out of college and university creative writing programs. The biographical notes on the seventy five poets selected indicate that, by my count, at least three out of four of them are college or university teachers, almost always in Creative Writing or English; most of the rest don't list a profession, and I suspect that many of these also teach but are understandably embarrassed to admit it (Oh no, not another one!), so that the academic presence is probably more like ninety percent.

It's unsurprising, then, that the poems included are disproportionately drawn from the "right" establishment journals, the ones everyone in the academy wants to get on their resumes: again by my count, well over half the poems are from the six journals Poetry, The Cincinnati Review, The New Yorker, The New England Review, The American Poetry Review, and Ploughshares. And it's equally unsurprising that most of them read like creative writing seminar exercises.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mark Doty, guest editor of this collection and one of my favorite writers, says in his introduction that he could just as easily have called it SEVENTY-FIVE POEMS MARK LIKES. My reaction to several of these poems is the same as I have of Mr. Doty`s. I sometimes do not understand them so it comes as no surprise to me that these are poems he has selected. (I should say, however, that I love almost every book of nonfiction Mr. Doty has published.) On the other hand, Reynolds Price, who I`m certain never graduated last in his class has said, in discussing a particular Wallace Stevens poem he found incomprehensible, that to appreciate a poem, you have to understand what it is about and that it is possible to give a prose statement of any good poem. I couldn`t agree more. And furthermore, a poem that speaks to me is one that I either send to a friend or call up and read to them: "Can you believe how beautiful this poem is?" Just like some but not all of Mr. Doty's poems-- two come to mind immediately: he has written a gorgeous poem about a community choir rehearsing for a performance of Handel's "Messiah" and another of someone painting an apartment while listening to a Handel opera if my memory does not fail me-- some of these are those I read to friends.

I particularly liked Billy Collins' "Delivery" where the delivery truck brings news of the narrator's death-- many of these poems deal with death, but then Mr. Collins has said that that is what most poems are about-- "The Gods" by Mary Jo Salter, "Dr. Samuel Adolphus Cartwright on Dissecting the White Negro, 1851" by Natasha Trethewey and "Expecting" by Kevin Young. The poem that is worth the price of this anthology, however, has to be "The Afterlife" by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. I heard Mr.
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Format: Paperback
About 1/3 of these poems were wonderful. 1/3 made no sense or very little sense to me. 1/3 I understood fine, but I thought were lousy poems and I have no idea how they ever got published anywhere to begin with and I have zero idea how anyone could think that they're among the best.

My favorite poems in this book are these: "Mrs. Mason and the Poets" by David Mason; "The Gods" by Mary Jo Salter; and "Daffodil" by Angelo Nikolopoulos.

I have very conventional tastes. Some of my favorite poets are Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Robert Browning, Robert Graves, Wordsworth, Housman, and Keats. In general, I like metrical verse. Too many of the poems in this book were prose-like. Many of the poems seemed disjointed or they had no dramatic/emotional impact. One thing that really stood out to me was how unmusical so much of the poetry was. The music within poems is one of the things I like most about poetry. But there are some wonderful poems in this book that did click with me.
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True Confession: I hesitated to order this book--numbers of previous volumes in this series have been astonishingly awful (would-be poets too busy flashing their avantgarde credentials to do the hard work of crafting something fresh and insightful for actual readers). This is one of the better volumes in David Lehman's wildly uneven series. I sincerely thank Guest Editor Mark Doty for taking readers' sensibilities into consideration in making his selections.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Depending on the poet that selects poems for these anthologies you may either hate or love these books. Yet in all the time I've been reading these anthologies I must say I usually find at least a few poems to love. This book is made up of poetry that was published in popular magazines This collection does not represent any self-published poets even though they often write excellent poems. So a lot of these poems seem more academic in nature. In this book you will find 75 poems so you are sure to like something.

I thought Karen Leona Anderson's poem was rich and almost buttery. I though Julianna Bagott's poem on nursing was extremely vivid and could only be written by a mother. Stephanie Brown's "Notre Dame" was more meaningful to me because I've been to Paris and have lit a candle at the cathedral. I felt the poem was emotionally profound at the end.

If I had any objection to anything in the poems it was the frequent use of the F-word. I feel it ruined some of the poems for me. Not that I've never sworn before but swearing hardly even contributes to an intellectual atmosphere. So I thought "Dorothy Wordsworth" was a little too blunt and may be offensive to some readers, however it did convey anger very effectively.

I was pleased to find a poem by Billy Collins who is one of my favorite poets. His poem is about death and there are quite a few poems that are about death, ghosts and even horror. I didn't like the poem about mice very much and some poems had some rather disturbing images. The stories of the afterlife are also rather macabre. I think of the afterlife as mostly being beautiful but the poets in this book think of the afterlife as mostly a place of emotional suffering. I'm not saying there is not a hell but it would have been nice to read about heaven.
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