As I prepare to order books for my poetry workshop next semester, I’m confronted by the perennial issue of whether or not to order an anthology. Marianne Moore argues in favor of anthologies thusly: “Academic feeling, or prejudice possibly, in favor of continuity and completeness is opposed to miscellany – to music programs, composite picture exhibitions, newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Any zoo, aquarium, library, garden, or volume of letters, however, is an anthology and certain of these selected findings are highly satisfactory.” Just so. But likewise, “However expressive the content of an anthology, one notes that a yet more distinct unity is afforded in the unintentional portrait given, of the mind which brought the assembled integers together.” And, one might add, the historical moment in which that mind operated. The auteur and his/her times.
So, should I order an anthology? And if so, which? I’m seriously asking – that’s what the comments box is for.
To my mind, the contenders:
- American Poets of the 21st Century (Claudia Rankine and Lisa Sewell, eds.)
- American Hybrid (Cole Swenson and David St. John, eds.).
- Lyric Postmodernism (Reginald Shepherd, ed.)
- Postmodern American Poetry (Paul Hoover, ed.)
Each has its flaws, as has been pointed out in the BlogPoSphere. The first only covers 7 poets (but does so in gratifying detail – poems, poetic statement, essay by another poet/critic). American Hybrid – only 7 pages per poet – and lots of them – and lots of them are boring – and some less-good poems by the poets that aren’t. But it’s cheaper than the late R. Shepherd’s anthology – which had the misfortune to come out from an independent press the year before the A.H./W.W. Norton juggernaut appeared. And it does largely the same thing, in a little more detail – something between the previous two. It’s about 2/3 the size of A.H., but costs a couple of bucks more. Pomo Am. Poetry is great, but pretty dated at this point.
I also want to order books by individual authors. Here the problem is to avoid foisting my current reading habits (experimental multi-genre narratives, mostly; often large) on my students, who will be intermediate-level. But that’s another issue . . .
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