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The Best American Poetry 2009

Guest Editor, David Wagoner


David Lehman (View Bio)
Hardcover: Scribner, 2009.

The Best American Poetry 2009

Known for his marvelous narrative skill and humane wit, David Wagoner is one of the few poets of his generation to win the universal admiration of his peers. Working in conjunction with series editor David Lehman, Wagoner brings his refreshing eye to this year’s anthology. With new work by established poets, such as Billy Collins, Denise Duhamel, Mark Doty, and Bob Hicok, The Best American Poetry 2009 also features some of tomorrow’s leading luminaries. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will treasure this illuminating collection of modern American verse.

"Every year, the annual Best American Poetry anthology arrives like the gift that keeps on giving. It contains a generous selection of poetry published over the past year—this time around, 75 poems from more than 56 print and internet outlets—as selected by a guest editor. That editor (in this case, David Wagoner; in previous years, everyone from John Ashbery to Rita Dove) provides an essay that explains the reasoning that went behind his or her selections. The series editor, poet David Lehman, also always adds his valuable two cents, usually dilating upon the state of poetry in the culture. In The Best American Poetry 2009, Lehman discusses the use of poetry in the previous season of Mad Men (did you know Don Draper’s reading habits caused an upsurge in sales for the poetry of Frank O’Hara?). But Lehman’s particular theme this year is the state of poetry criticism, and he doesn’t hold back: 'Poetry criticism at its worst today,” Lehman asserts, “is mean in spirit and spiteful in intent,' and he goes on from there to apply an especially vigorous flogging to the critic William Logan,... who has written, for example, that reading the work of C. K. Williams is 'like watching a dog eat its own vomit.'... Finally, The Best American Poetry 2009, like its predecessors, is a handy guidebook to making it in poetry today. The long 'Contributor’s Notes and Comments' provides not only a quick bio of each poet but also a statement from each writer about how he or she came to write the poem included. These entries range from the enlightening to the insufferably pretentious, but they’re never less than entertaining. There’s also a list of every print or online magazine where these poems were published containing the name of the journal’s poetry editor and address. Just in case you want to submit your own poetry some place, and risk the future wrath—or praise—of some ornery, or generous, poetry critic. As I said, you get the current world of poetry in one slim volume." — Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

"From the moment series editor David Lehman invokes the myth of Jacob wrestling the Angel in his introduction, the gloves are off in this year's installment of this popular annual anthology. Lehman devotes much of his introduction to throwing jabs at longtime sparring partner and professional poetry grump William Logan, whom Lehman calls 'wounded' and 'thin skinned.' Guest editor Wagoner chooses to abstain from the scuffle, but there's no denying the aesthetic character amassed by the poems he's selected: American poets not only want to talk about their country this year, they want to talk violence in (and toward) their country.... It appears our poets are at last ready to confront the hysteria and violence of the past eight years, and who can say there's a better year than 2009 to begin. (starred review)" — Publishers Weekly

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