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"Be careful what you say to us now./ The street-lamp is smashed, the window is jagged,/ There is a man dead in his blood by the base of the fountain./ If you speak/ You cannot be delicate or sad or clever." With these lines, Josephine Jacobsen reminds readers that despite all the hardship in the world, poetry is there to report. With this sweeping behemoth of an anthology, Norton and the Library of Congress have given readers and libraries an excellent excuse to own another book. Schmidt, former poetry editor for the New York Times Book Review, has included all of the Poet Laureate Consultants (commonly known as U.S. Poet Laureates) from Joseph Auslander (1937-41) to Kay Ryan (2007-10). Even newly named Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin is included because he served as Special Bicentennial Consultant with Rita Dove and Louise Gl ck (1999-2000). Schmidt gives readers a fine selection of poems for each poet, some expected and some surprises. In addition, she includes introductions that place poets in social and literary context and elaborates their contributions to the office of Consultant. For example, William Carlos Williams's term was mired in Communist controversy and health problems, and while appointed, he never served. Verdict A hefty and worthy read that everyone will want to savor. Essential for all contemporary poetry collections.-Karla Huston, Appleton Arts Ctr., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
What does the U.S. poet laureate do? Billy Collins describes the open-to-interpretation position as he knew it in his witty foreword to this unique anthology. Editor Schmidt provides a more systematic overview in her introduction to this highly pleasurable and wonderfully informative collection of poems by the 43 poets appointed to the only official job in the arts in the United States, one fraught with ironies as poets balk at being a servant to any entity other than the muse. Schmidt begins in 2010 with Kay Ryan and travels back to Joseph Auslander, the first consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, as it was known when Archibald MacLeish, a poet and FDR's Librarian of Congress, established the post in 1937. Schmidt succinctly profiles each poet, while the nearly 500 poems map a great republic of the imagination. There's Stanley Kunitz's elegy to a whale and Elizabeth Bishop's portrait of a sandpiper. Allen Tate, Karl Shapiro, and Robert Lowell remember fallen soldiers, and Robert Pinsky considers memory. A generous, glimmering book that will enrich every poetry shelf.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
With a foreword by poet laureate Billy Collins (an amusing piece downplaying the honor, noting that it is conferred with little ceremony and entails few official duties), this anthology collects work from poets who have been named poet laureate of the US--and therein lies its interest. Whereas others have gathered poets who have influenced poetry through stylistic and theoretical innovation, e.g., avant-garde poets, Schmidt (Sarah Lawrence College) presents those the Library of Congress has seen as representative of American letters. Most are still remembered as significant figures. The presence of Robert Frost, Rita Dove, W. S. Merwin, Robert Lowell, Mark Strand, Anthony Hecht, and others shows that the establishment gives its imprimatur to high-quality, relatively formal, fairly intelligible verse--poetry that engages with identifiably American themes. Aside from its cultural interest as an account of government's uneasy relationship with a reputedly esoteric art form, this book recalls some good poets who ended up on the wrong side of literary or critical fashion. This is a worthy, if not indispensable, compendium. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. R. K. Mookerjee Eugene Lang College, The New School for the Liberal Arts
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The United States has a long tradition of choosing a national poet, though the term poet laureate only came to be used here after 1985. Before that, since its inception in 1935, the post was called consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress. So far we've had 43 of them, including some of America's most famous and best-loved poets, such as Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and, of course, Billy Collins, perhaps the most popular poet to hold the title (2001-2003), and also the author of the foreword to this enjoyable anthology, which offers a sampling of work from all 43 laureates, plus short introductions about each one. Former New York Times Book Review poetry editor Schmidt calls the laureates "the gatekeepers of the American idiom," and above all, that's what a reader will find here: a good sampling of what the mainstream of American poetry has to offer-the careful descriptions of Bishop, the powerful critiques of Brooks, the surreal landscapes of Simic, Merwin's deep images, Bogan's careful stanzas, Lowell's blustery lines. There are a few occasional poems, but mostly, it's a gathering of great poets hanging together because they held an important job. This will be a wonderful holiday gift for poetry lovers. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.