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The Best American Poetry 2011 by David…

The Best American Poetry 2011 (2011)

by David Lehman (Editor), Kevin Young (Editor)

Other authors: Elizabeth Alexander (Contributor), Sherman Alexie (Contributor), Rae Armantrout (Contributor), John Ashbery (Contributor), Julianna Baggott (Contributor)70 more, Erin Belieu (Contributor), Cara Benson (Contributor), Jaswinder Bolina (Contributor), Catherine Bowman (Contributor), Turner Cassity (Contributor), Michael Cirelli (Contributor), Billy Collins (Contributor), Olena Kalytiak Davis (Contributor), Matthew Dickman (Contributor), Michael Dickman (Contributor), Denise Duhamel (Contributor), Cornelius Eady (Contributor), Jill Alexander Essbaum (Contributor), Alan Feldman (Contributor), Farrah Field (Contributor), Carolyn Forche (Contributor), Beckian Fritz Goldberg (Contributor), Benjamin S. Grossberg (Contributor), Jennifer Grotz (Contributor), Robert Hass (Contributor), Terrance Hayes (Contributor), K.A. Hays (Contributor), Bob Hicok (Contributor), Jane Hirshfield (Contributor), Paul Hoover (Contributor), Andrew Hudgins (Contributor), Major Jackson (Contributor), Allison Joseph (Contributor), L.S. Klatt (Contributor), Jennifer Knox (Contributor), Yusef Komunyakaa (Contributor), James Longenbach (Contributor), Bridget Lowe (Contributor), Maurice Manning (Contributor), Morton Marcus (Contributor), Jill McDonough (Contributor), Erika Meitner (Contributor), Paul Muldoon (Contributor), Jude Nutter (Contributor), Jeni Olin (Contributor), Eric Pankey (Contributor), Alan Michael Parker (Contributor), Catherine Pierce (Contributor), Robert Pinsky (Contributor), Katha Pollitt (Contributor), D.A. Powell (Contributor), Gretchen Steele Pratt (Contributor), James Richardson (Contributor), Anne Marie Rooney (Contributor), Mary Ruefle (Contributor), Mary Jo Salter (Contributor), James Schuyler (Contributor), Charles Simic (Contributor), Matthew Buckley Smith (Contributor), Patricia Smith (Contributor), David St. John (Contributor), Gerald Stern (Contributor), Bianca Stone (Contributor), Mark Strand (Contributor), Mary Jo Thompson (Contributor), Natasha Trethewey (Contributor), Lee Upton (Contributor), David Wagoner (Contributor), Rosanna Warren (Contributor), Rachel Wetzsteon (Contributor), Richard Wilbur (Contributor), CK Williams (Contributor), David Wojahn (Contributor), Charles Wright (Contributor), Stephen Yenser (Contributor)

Series: The Best American Poetry (24)

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653285,390 (3.63)None
  The latest installment of the yearly anthology of contemporary American poetry that has achieved brand-name status in the literary world.



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Although I don't think these anthologies are the end all be all of poetry for the year, I still greatly enjoy and am moved by the poetry that is chosen. I loved the editors opening to the book, and really appreciated many of the pieces chosen. I would definitely recommend this book, especially for readers trying to get a good grasp on poetry in the last few years. ( )
  ceciliachard | Oct 17, 2016 |
I thought for a long time about whether I wanted to review this or if I had the capacity to do so. I feel like there are hordes of poetry fans and critical readers who are waiting in the wings to tell me I’m an idiot and that I don’t understand poetry. Anthologies are always hit and miss for people--it’s near impossible to contain something meaningful to every reader but this collection had enough poems that truly hit it out of the park for me that I felt I should at least write something about it. Is this the definitive collection of the best poems of the year? I really couldn’t say; I am no authority. I’ll leave that to other people to debate and just speak to my reading experience. Thankfully, David Lehman discusses this point in his foreword. The plethora of quotations in the first half of the foreword made it a choppy read for me but I am ecstatic to say that the part I enjoyed most about it was the last few paragraphs that Mr. Lehman wrote which summarized his own feelings on anthologizing poems, the wherewithal of poetry, and the structure and organization of the collection and all while devoid of quotes. It came as quite a surprise to me that this anthology is organized alphabetically. I read the foreword and introduction after the collection and didn’t notice (and constantly wondered about) the connective thread. I'm happy to finally know. Kevin Young, who selected the poems for this work, manages quite a feat in his introduction—he made me want to reread every poem in the book with his discussion and he compared the comeback of the sonnet to the much-hyped and awaited return of the McRib sandwich. Bravo, Mr. Young.

My favorite poems are the ones that punch you in the gut in the fewest number of stanzas possible. Tell me in a two pages or less or my eyes will start to glaze over and my mind will start wandering. I read three or four of these poems every few nights before I went to sleep and some I read over and over and over. It is truly a gift to be able to evoke emotions with your words in such a brief format. I must admit that a few of them made me tear up, but the same number dazzled me with their humor and cleverness. For example, Rachel Wetzsteon’s Time Pieces features short haiku stanzas, each a clever play on a heading about the passage of time: “Intermission Time/Guilty admission:/this plunge from art to life’s a/painful transition.” Or “Just give it time/Though I frankly feel/better, there’s nothing sadder/than starting to heal.” (emphasis my own to differentiate headings) For some reason, I am always drawn to poems about loss. I was touched by Yusef Komunyakaa’s A Voice on an Answering Machine, in which he writes of a woman lost but whose voice still remains as a reminder and similarly moved by Gretchen Steele Pratt’s, To my father on the anniversary of his death. I think the common thread for me will always be personal memories. We all like to make that connection with other people and wait patiently for those a-ha moments in literature when writers fascinate us with their perfect statements.

I have to admit that I laughed out loud during Erin Belieu’s, When at a Certain Party in NYC…clearly we’ve met some similar people in our travels. (and felt unhip at times) And I was quite surprised, as several of my reader friends may be, that both [a:Sherman Alexie|4174|Sherman Alexie|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1187724334p2/4174.jpg] and [a:Julianna Baggott|16304|Julianna Baggott|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1201117014p2/16304.jpg] have poems in this collection. I only mention these two specifically as I was familiar with their names before reading their biographical sections. I particularly enjoyed (as much as you can enjoy) Alexie’s Valediction, which goes back to my death-related poem obsession. He writes, “Yes, my sad acquaintance, each dark time is/Indistinguishable from the other dark times./Yesterday is as relentless as tomorrow.” Makes you really want to go to sleep, eh? A few of my other favorites were Eric Pankey’s Cogitatio Mortis (“After awhile, each room is a waiting room.”), James Longenbach’s Snow and Jane Hirschfield’s extremely short The Cloudy Vase, which captures optimism in just four lines.

Because each poem is such a singular experience, I could obviously ramble about this anthology for ages. Some were better than others to me and many poems I enjoyed were left out of this review for the sake of brevity. This was my first experience with The Best American Poetry series and it won’t be my last. I’ll just leave you with just one more quote, from James Richardson’s “Even More Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays from Vectors 3.0,” “What is more yours than what you always hold back?”

Thanks to the publisher and Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab program for reminding me how amazing poetry can be and for a larger collection of favorite quotations.
( )
  FlanneryAC | Mar 31, 2013 |
On Reading, with the Usual Disappointment,
the First Few Poems in The Best American Poetry of 2011


A phrase occasionally
rises regally
from amid the welter,
just one,
just waiting,

as the single canna
south of our garage
this warm September
blosoms orange
and alone:

human beings
ever tilt toward we

they’re content to be
(not mean)

with long awaited words
from back when

my / stiff knot burns,
worn hornish

tasty azaleas are
. . . half-heartedly exploding

and then I hit one
that has none
not a one,

Visionary gleams
don’t just happen.


But among them
like an Amish fellow
among a bevy of beauties

(sometimes clichés alliterate,
so I nurture them,
fertilize them, mulch them,
stake them up with, oh,
maybe a broom handle or
a discarded curtain rod,
watch them blossom),


the Native Son
pronounces his Valediction:

these dark times are just
like those dark times

I know, I know,
I know, I know,
I know

“these are not the worst of sorrows”

he proclaims,

citing Chekov,
as I now cite him.

A phrase occasionally
rises regal

and lifts us up
above this fluff,

this other stuff,
this POEtry.

So I’ll keep on reading
the best American poetry of 2011,

a few a day

I’ll keep on reading,

This single canna
blossoms orange
and audacious,

though October
augur oblivia

. . . . .


You can’t not
hear poetry.

It sneaks up on you
whether you’re expect-
ing it or not:

it may be nasal
sometimes it sniffles

it says “psst!” “hey, you”
(a, e, i, OH u)

it whispers
it whistles

once in a while it barks

it slithers
it glides/slides/elides

it tinkles, it rings,
it clangs, it chimes

it glistens
sight unseen

if you
but listen

it surprises you
with its juxtapositions

its alliterations, its assonance,
its internal rhymes & half rhymes

its play on words
and unintended images; e.g.

October 2011







You can’t not
hear it.

. . . . .

This Book

This book is safe for reading.
No danger of disasters.
Its hinges are not poisonous .
It has no hidden handguns.
No swords are merged in its words.
It has no trap doors.
Its Molotov cocktails are
only V-8 juice mixed with
Jack Daniels Old #7.
Its rifles are registered.
Its M16s, its Uzis –
oh, well, never mind.
Its time bombs have all been defused.
Its Scud missiles are safely stored
in silos in Nebraska, or Kansas,
or not too far from
Independence, Missouri.

This book is safe.
It can be read openly
in a public park
in the bright sunlight
without fear of arrest. Yes.
It’s safe for 21st century Amerika.
Relax, dad.

Have a stalk of celery.
Have a raddish.
Have a carrot.
Have a Granny Smith apple
with old-fashioned peanut butter.
Or a purple plumcot.

It’s safe – this book is.
It has no Jack the Giant Killer.
It has no David or Goliath
no Beowulf or Grendel
or Grendel’s ferocious dam,
or St. George and his dragon.
It has no witches of Salem.

Its pages are chaste,
virginal, as pure
as the driven snow.
It has no Whore of Babylon
lurking undercover.
no Woman in Red,
no Godiva (naked)
or Jezebel (disguised
as Nancy Reagan
or Hilary Rodham Clinton),
no prostitutes or their pimps
haunting Times Square
flashing their flesh,
round and firm and silky,
scented as the oleander,
fragrant as wine,
and twice as enticing.

(Get thee behind me, Milton).

Its Lucifer is not yet Satan,
not yet fallen from the heavens,
not an Accuser/Prosecutor.

This book has no foreshadowing,
no climax or denouement,
no sinister foil or double entendre
no deus ex machina is needed.
It isn’t bombastic,
it isn’t tempestuous;
it isn’t even subtle
or insidious.
It’s shy.
Not sly.

Indeed, its pages
are blank – as pure
as the driven snow
(I said that already, didn’t I?);
its illustrations are
its print

It’s innocent.
(I swear, it’s innocent,
under God)
with liquidity
and gestures for oil.

Praise Alcoa.
Praise Motorola.
Praise General Motors/Mills/Electric.
Praise the Almighty Ones
(all those CEO’s,
oh, Holy, Holy Oligarchs,
Power Everlasting).
Praise Wall Street.
Kneel, kneel before THEM.
Prostrate thyself.
Five times a day.
Facing Goldman-Sachs.

This book is safe
for kneeling
It’s safe for Armageddon.
It’s safe for 9/11.
It’s safe on third base.
It’s a Safeway.
It’s wordless.

This book is safe for reeling.
and Secure!

This book . . .

  bfrank | Oct 6, 2011 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lehman, DavidEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Young, KevinEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexander, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexie, ShermanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Armantrout, RaeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ashbery, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baggott, JuliannaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Belieu, ErinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benson, CaraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bolina, JaswinderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowman, CatherineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cassity, TurnerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cirelli, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collins, BillyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, Olena KalytiakContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dickman, MatthewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dickman, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Duhamel, DeniseContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eady, CorneliusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Essbaum, Jill AlexanderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Feldman, AlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Field, FarrahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Forche, CarolynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldberg, Beckian FritzContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grossberg, Benjamin S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grotz, JenniferContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hass, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hayes, TerranceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hays, K.A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hicok, BobContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hirshfield, JaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoover, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hudgins, AndrewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jackson, MajorContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Joseph, AllisonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klatt, L.S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knox, JenniferContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Komunyakaa, YusefContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Longenbach, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lowe, BridgetContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Manning, MauriceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marcus, MortonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McDonough, JillContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Meitner, ErikaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Muldoon, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nutter, JudeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Olin, JeniContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pankey, EricContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parker, Alan MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pierce, CatherineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pinsky, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pollitt, KathaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Powell, D.A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pratt, Gretchen SteeleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Richardson, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rooney, Anne MarieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ruefle, MaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Salter, Mary JoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schuyler, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Simic, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, Matthew BuckleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, PatriciaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
St. John, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stern, GeraldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stone, BiancaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strand, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thompson, Mary JoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trethewey, NatashaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Upton, LeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wagoner, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Warren, RosannaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wetzsteon, RachelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilbur, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, CKContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wojahn, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wright, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yenser, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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