Book Review — American Poetry: States of the Art

American Poetry: States of the Art edited by Bradford Morrow is a collection of cutting edge poetry of seventy-five poets. This collection is not for beginners and when pushing the limits of poetry there are bound to be a few hits and plenty of misses. What determines the hits or misses will be the reader’s own preferences.

One thing I noticed was the scope and scale of the writing. One of the headliners in this collection is Juliana Spahr. I enjoyed her single poem, “Blood Sonnets”, and I imagine those with a molecular biology background would be ecstatic about it. I followed it and enjoyed the poem, but I am sure many people would be at a total loss. Lyn Hejinian vining writing is a pleasant rambling of images and soothing rhythm:

The earth seems young — raucous, ravenous, quick, The earth exists
With gusto. Things fall to it and stick, things are rooted in it
And arise. This cannot be said of the sea.

Myung Mi Kim gives images of the famous Phan Thị Kim Phúc photograph. Arthur Sze provides images of the Inca civilization. The poets, although pushing limits, for the most part, seem to stick to a single topic as their subject matter. With seventy-five poets there is plenty of subject matter.

Although a bit intimidating, the poetry is very well done and will help the average reader expand their poetry comfort zone. This is also a collection to taken in small pieces. Read, think, reread, enjoy.

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