The Best American Poetry 2003

Yusef Komunyakaa, David Lehman, editors

Choosing the best poetry published in a given time period guarantees some controversy, but this year’s compilation is as well-rounded as any in this series, now in its 17th year. Series editor David Lehman contributed an essay describing the high and low points of American poetry in the last year—and there were a surprising number of both. Yusef Komunyakaa has selected a surprising range of work from both established and novice poets. Heavy hitters like Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin and James Tate are represented, and Komunyakaa has made several selections that reflect his ear for poems that incorporate the rhythms of jazz and the blues. A high point is Galway Kinnell’s “When the Towers Fell,” in which language in the aftermath of 9/11 reaches for meaning in the incomprehensible.