I get my first glimpse of the year’s Best American Poetry when a box of the uncorrected proofs arrives. Years ago, the covers were the color I call “galley blue”; more recently the publisher has invested in a low resolution full-color version of the final cover. This year, Scribner redesigned the cover, the first since 2005. I like the new design. The cherry in the lower right corner seems to be smiling; it makes me happy.
Next I look at the table of contents and hold my breath a little hoping to find that my favorite poets are represented. I also look for titles that reference food. I teach a food literature course at the New School and try to include a poem in each class (along with essays and fiction). This year I was named the poet laureate of the NYC Greenmarket so I am more interested than ever in poems that are inspired by or are about food and BAP 2015 has given me two to chew on (Jennifer Keith's“Eating Walnuts”, and Alan Michael Parker's “Candying Mint. Poets you’ll be hearing from me).
Next I flip to the contributors notes. I’m looking for the birth years of the poets. Who is the youngest? Of the poets who included their birth year in their contributors note, it looks like the youngest was born in 1989; the oldest, 1937. I look for those who are my age (1955), and I look for the poet with the most interesting job (again, Jennifer Keith). How I assimilate this information depends on how I'm feeling about my place in the world.
Back to the poems: This year Sherman Alexie picked several that speak directly to the concerns that have haunted me for the past two years as I’ve cared for a sick loved one. I’ll not soon forget Laura Kasichke’s “For the Young Woman I Saw Hit by A Car.” . . . “ which I’ve been carrying around in my head for days. And I’m moved and comforted by Ron Padgett’s “Survivor Guilt,” Charles Simic's “So Early in the Morning,” Raphael Campo’s “Drs. Lie, May Hide Mistakes,” and Terence Winch’s “Subject to Change.” Thank you for these Sherman Alexie.
I’m just getting started with this year’s volume but others that delight are Chen Chen’s “for I will do/undo what was done/undone to me.” I love the skillful rhythmic repetition of “snow.” And having spent many winters in upstate New York I admire the way this poem captures the experience of those brutal winters. It also seems to me to be in sympathetic conversation with Anthony Hecht’s Sestina d’Inverno. Don’t you love when poems talk to each other across time?
Thank you Chana Bloch for teaching me about Kintsugi.
Thank you Candace G. Wiley for “Dear Black Barbie.” How can you not love a poem that begins “I made you fuck my white Barbie”?
Thank you Danielle DeTiberus for raw sexuality and genius form of “In a Black Tank Top.”
And thank you David Lehman for starting and nurturing this enterprise for three decades. You are my hero.