The BEST American Poetry 2007

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Finally getting around to reading The Best American Poetry 2007, edited by Heather McHugh (guest editor) and David Lehman (series editor), and I'm more than half-way through this year's rather slim volume (at least, compared to recent editions).

I'm still trying to make up my mind about where 2007's crop of poems rank against previous years in this series, but one of the great things about this anthology has little to do with the actual poems. What I love about this anthology are the 70+ explanations of the poems by the actual poets. It's really a great learning experience.

For instance, Rae Armantrout writes, "Part of the pleasure of poetry has always been the rather strange pleasure of 'calling one thing by another's name.' That's what metaphor does, after all. 'Scumble' asks about the psychology of this phenomenon. What is the kick in substitution? Is it covertly erotic?"

Julie Carr honestly writes, "The poem 'marriage' has had so many permutations that its source is no longer any particular lived or imagined experience. Its sources are instead its previous selves. The phonic and semantic relationships among the words 'marriage,' 'edge,' 'manna,' and 'mannered' have been, throughout, constant points of interest."

Of his poem "Best Am Po," Mark Halliday writes, "If I'd known that this poem would end up in The Best American Poetry, I would have made it even more ambitious."

How I like to read this anthology, in fact, is to use a small Post-It to bookmark the current poem I'm reading and a small Post-It to bookmark the corresponding poet commentary. That way, I can read the comments on the poem while the poem is still fresh in my mind.

While I'm still making up my mind about this particular volume, one thing is certain: The overall series is very interesting and filled with diversity. Each guest editor seems to take the anthology in a different direction, and that is a great thing.


For some more on The Best American Poetry 2007: