American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics

Claudia Rankine and Lisa Sewell, editors

This is the way critical books ought to be put together. In spite of the huge task—American poetry is more diverse than at perhaps any time in our history—the editors have assembled a volume that offers a wide range of approaches to contemporary verse. Granted, these are all established poets from the academic tradition, but the difference between poets like Joshua Clover (a professor at UC Davis) and Kevin Young, not to mention Karen Volkman and Mark Levine, covers all the ground a single volume possibly could. It works. It’s organized to give preference to the poems themselves, which are followed by a “poetics statement” from each poet (as diverse as the poets are, naturally), then a critical essay on the writer’s work. If all that’s not enough, a CD of the poets reading is included.