The Poem Is You: 60 contemporary American poems and how to read them
Harvard University Press (Footprint) $64.99 hb, 426 pp, 9780674737877
Northrop Frye wrote that ‘No kind of book is easier to attack than an anthology’, as Stephen Burt reminds us in the introduction to The Poem Is You: 60 contemporary American poems and how to read them. Frye’s comment was occasioned by an anthology of poems from his native Canada, but in recent years perhaps no national literature has borne out the truth of it more than that of the United States, where poetry anthologies have occasioned impassioned debates turning on the most fundamental questions of aesthetics and politics, inclusion and exclusion. Burt’s contribution to the genre, which collects sixty poems written or published since 1980, is less an attempt to refigure an existing canon in one direction or other than to record the salutary aftermath of the canon wars, that is, the ever-increasing diversity of American poetry: diversity in the identities of American poets, and diversity in the kinds of poems they write.