THE STATE OF THE ART
A Chronicle of American Poetry, 1988-2014
By David Lehman
198 pp. University of Pittsburgh, $24.95.
In 1987, Lehman, the prolific poet, critic and editor, somehow talked Scribner into publishing an annual anthology to be called “The Best American Poetry,” and so became the Casey Kasem of American verse. More than a quarter-century later, likely to the surprise of everyone except the indefatigable Lehman himself, the series is still going strong. Each year Lehman chooses an eminent poet to make the 75 selections, and the nation’s versifiers spend the next 12 months arguing over geniuses overlooked and charlatans canonized, or pretending they’re too cool to care. “Best” is of course the fighting word, but also undoubtedly the key to the success of the series; the joy of the project, for me, arises exactly from the fact that its click-bait cachet gets people reading and discussing contemporary poems. Lehman has contributed brief forewords to every volume; this book collects them. They aren’t scholarly, and aren’t meant to be. Read end to end, they form a swift, dishy, insightful, entertaining account of American poetry’s fashions and trajectories as one century sputtered out and the next cleared its throat.
from Prose on Poetry by Joel Brouwer The New York Times SEPT. 4, 2015
Continue reading here.