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The Best American Poetry 2006 (2006)

by Billy COLLINS (Editor), David Lehman (Editor), J. Allyn Rosser (Contributor)

Other authors: Kim Addonizio (Contributor), Dick Allen (Contributor), Craig Arnold (Contributor), John Ashbery (Contributor), Jesse Ball (Contributor)69 more, Krista Benjamin (Contributor), Ilya Bernstein (Contributor), Gaylord Brewer (Contributor), Tom Christopher (Contributor), Laura Cronk (Contributor), Carl Dennis (Contributor), Stephen Dobyns (Contributor), Denise Duhamel (Contributor), Stephen Dunn (Contributor), Beth Ann Fennelly (Contributor), Megan Gannon (Contributor), Amy Gerstler (Contributor), Sarah Gorham (Contributor), George Green (Contributor), Debora Greger (Contributor), Eamon Grennan (Contributor), Dan Gutstein (Contributor), RS Gwynn (Contributor), Rachel Hadas (Contributor), Mark Halliday (Contributor), Jim Harrison (Contributor), Robert Hass (Contributor), Christian Hawkey (Contributor), Terrance Hayes (Contributor), Bob Hicok (Contributor), Katia Kapovich (Contributor), Laura Kasischke (Contributor), Joy Katz (Contributor), David Kirby (Contributor), Jennifer L. Knox (Contributor), Ron Koertge (Cover artist), John Koethe (Contributor), Mark Kraushaar (Contributor), Julie Larios (Contributor), Dorianne Laux (Contributor), Reb Livingston (Contributor), Thomas Lux (Contributor), Paul Muldoon (Contributor), Marilyn Nelson (Contributor), Richard Newman (Contributor), Mary Oliver (Contributor), Danielle Pafunda (Contributor), Mark Pawlak (Contributor), Bao Phi (Contributor), Donald Platt (Contributor), Lawrence Raab (Contributor), Betsy Retallack (Contributor), Liz Rosenberg (Contributor), Kay Ryan (Contributor), Mary Jo Salter (Contributor), Vijay Seshadri (Contributor), Alan Shapiro (Contributor), Charles Simic (Contributor), Gerald Stern (Contributor), James Tate (Contributor), Sue Ellen Thompson (Contributor), Tony Towle (Contributor), Alison Townsend (Contributor), Paul Violi (Contributor), Ellen Bryant Voigt (Contributor), David Wagoner (Contributor), Charles Harper Webb (Contributor), CK Williams (Contributor), Terence Winch (Contributor), Susan Wood (Contributor), Franz Wright (Contributor), Robert Wrigley (Contributor), David Yezzi (Contributor), Dean Young (Contributor)

Series: The Best American Poetry (19)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations
1915145,462 (3.66)None
Contains seventy-five poems by American poets, selected by the editor as the best of 2005, and includes a brief profile of each featured poet.
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Showing 5 of 5
It's incredible what passes for poetry now. "Prose poetry" has become an excuse to write like you speak and absolves the writer from having any unique insights or profound observation. If that is an unfair assessment of prose poetry then perhaps it is my own fault for not having made adequate effort at finding the good stuff. Perhaps 2006 was a bad year, but my suspicion is that poetry, prose or narrative or whatever, has been dumbed down by the 20 year old morons that infest the MFA programs in this country.

Even so, there are maybe three gems in here. You've gotta mine and dig and wash and skip, but you may find a couple with some depth and worth a few re-reads.

Most of these "poems" (that's right, quotation marks) are lame, kitschy, not clunky, not at all clunky, which is great, but that's not enough, there has to be something more, not just clever commas, to let us know, how clever, you think you are, by separating your sentences, just so. (See what I did there?)

Two stars for the few good ones. Instead of this, just read Keats again. ( )
  DanielAlgara | Sep 26, 2014 |
Why even read American lit journals when you can kick back with one of these each year? After reading 1,754 magazines, Billy Collins asks the same question but more sardonically, adding: “It’s enough to make you wish the NEA would award grants to poets for not writing.” There’s an aura of anger around Billy Collins. And an aura of boredom. In his introduction, Collins guesses that “83%” of published poetry “is not worth reading.” I’m a fan of honest criticism, but I can’t help feeling his stance is an arrogant one. It’s a bit like saying 83% of people are not worth meeting. It rather depends on who is doing the meeting, doesn't it? And as Collins himself points out, every editor of the series likes a different 17%.

Blanket statements like “most poetry sucks” don't exactly help a weary reader. As soon a reviewer steps outside the poem discussed, it becomes invective not literary criticism. Such venting quickly becomes as useless as the bad poetry one is venting about. After all, how many books of any genre does one ever love? In our life time only a handful books will have a significant impact on us. This is true for any reader of any subject. The real danger is sycophantic reviewing, not over-publishing. The worst you can level at over-publishing is that it kills trees, (which newspapers and Brazilian cattle ranchers are also guilty of.) But to suggest some poets shouldn't bother is simply mean spirited, and of little value critically. Why should people be dissuaded from the pleasure of not only trying to write a good poem, but attempting to share it? I am wary of arguments that begin with the assumption that almost all of the (fill-in-blank-here-of-whatever group-you-choose) should be cast into oblivion. It's a knee-jerk, reactionary, angry stance. And a potentially destructive one. However, one piece of critical advise Collins offers does stick in my mind. He writes “too many poems seemed oblivious to my presence and not the least interested in my participation as a reader. If you’re going to stop talking to me, then I’m going to stop listening.” Exactly. This strikes me as sound critical advise.

Collins both writes and likes poetry that can be swallowed whole. And while I’m more keen on Paul Muldoon’s 2005 effort with the same series, there are of course a number a poems here I really like. Here’s a perfect example of the kind of line Collins delights in: “Did you know that boiling to death / was once a common punishment / in England and parts of Europe?” This is from a poem titled “For my niece sidney, age six” by Amy Gerstler. Hardly a first line one is expecting from such a title. It’s a kind of shock and awe approach Collins is seeking, as if Collins neede to wake himself out of tedium. Another favourite of mine is “What I never told you about the Abortion” by Alison Townsend. An agonizingly heartbreaking piece where the speaker expounds (in non-rhyming couplets) on the effect such a decision had on her relationship with her partner. Again, it’s a jolt, and searing. “Prayer to Tear Down the Sperm-Dam Down,” another zinger (again in couplets) is almost psychotically charged. It's a beatitude-like sermonish romp exploring of the desire to procreate, to begin begetting in the face of an oblivion-inducing, indifferent universe. Religiously nihilistic, and joy to read. In too many of the poems, Collins’ partiality toward the easy speaking does not ignite the selection. As in many of Collins own poems, an engaging use of metaphor or wordplay isn't what carries the momentum of the selection, but the spark of unexpected, juxtaposed statements. This sort of tendency can be labeled “quirky,” but I think there’s a kind of protestant Puritanism at work here too that shuns embellishment and the ornate. Just the facts, ma’am. However, the “facts” in many of these poems paint at times a vertigo inducing poetic reality that reveals an unexpected world view. ( )
  poetryavenger | Jul 14, 2011 |
Surely this was not the best American poetry of 2006! There were a few that stood out. "Religion" by Robert Wrigley about a mysterious shoe brought home by an old dog was a favorite and stimulated much discussion at bookclub. Why does the narrator have so many one-legged friends? Also "Gratification" by Susan Wood: "Now the sun is going down in flames like a ship on fire, but slowly, listing a little to the left. Don't worry, everyone on board gets off. That's the best part. Everyone is saved." And, "Monsieur Pierre est mort," about the fate of a beleagured French teacher's pet rock. Most of the poems, however, read more like essays on overvisited themes than poetry that catches you by the heart and demands that you stay awhile and return often. ( )
  dlrichar | May 5, 2009 |
Surely this was not the best American poetry of 2006! There were a few that stood out. "Religion" by Robert Wrigley about a mysterious shoe brought home by an old dog was a favorite and stimulated much discussion at bookclub. Why does the narrator have so many one-legged friends? Also "Gratification" by Susan Wood: "Now the sun is going down in flames like a ship on fire, but slowly, listing a little to the left. Don't worry, everyone on board gets off. That's the best part. Everyone is saved." And, "Monsieur Pierre est mort," about the fate of a beleagured French teacher's pet rock. Most of the poems, however, read more like essays on overvisited themes than poetry that catches you by the heart and demands that you stay awhile and return often. ( )
  WintersRose | Jan 26, 2009 |
I enjoyed the poetry....but....it's one of those books where everything was good, but nothing truly jumped me by surprise and stayed with me. I assume some of the poems will do that for somebody, but this was a one-time read that I enjoyed for the most part, but probably won't go back to at any point. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Jun 5, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
COLLINS, BillyEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lehman, DavidEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Rosser, J. AllynContributormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Addonizio, KimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allen, DickContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arnold, CraigContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ashbery, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ball, JesseContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benjamin, KristaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bernstein, IlyaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brewer, GaylordContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Christopher, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cronk, LauraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dennis, CarlContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dobyns, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Duhamel, DeniseContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dunn, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fennelly, Beth AnnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gannon, MeganContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gerstler, AmyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gorham, SarahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Green, GeorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greger, DeboraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grennan, EamonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gutstein, DanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gwynn, RSContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hadas, RachelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Halliday, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harrison, JimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hass, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hawkey, ChristianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hayes, TerranceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hicok, BobContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kapovich, KatiaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kasischke, LauraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Katz, JoyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kirby, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knox, Jennifer L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Koertge, RonCover artistsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Koethe, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kraushaar, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Larios, JulieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Laux, DorianneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Livingston, RebContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lux, ThomasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Muldoon, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nelson, MarilynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Newman, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oliver, MaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pafunda, DanielleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pawlak, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Phi, BaoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Platt, DonaldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Raab, LawrenceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Retallack, BetsyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rosenberg, LizContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ryan, KayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Salter, Mary JoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Seshadri, VijayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shapiro, AlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Simic, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stern, GeraldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tate, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thompson, Sue EllenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Towle, TonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Townsend, AlisonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Violi, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Voigt, Ellen BryantContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wagoner, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Webb, Charles HarperContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, CKContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Winch, TerenceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wood, SusanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wright, FranzContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wrigley, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yezzi, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Young, DeanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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Contains seventy-five poems by American poets, selected by the editor as the best of 2005, and includes a brief profile of each featured poet.

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