The average rating for The Best American Poetry 2008 based on 2 reviews is 2.5 stars.
|Review # 1 was written on 2009-02-09 00:00:00|
These things are pretty much damned coming out the gate, since it's impossible to make everyone happy. All in all, I thought this was a fairly solid effort. Poems I loved, poems I hated, but more to like than dislike, with a large grouping under "Meh." Two new poets I liked: Tim Ross ("then let fall your horrible pleasure"), and Erica Dawson("Parallax"). I also liked Ciaran Berry's "Electrocuting an Elephant", and the always wild Frederick Seidel's "Evening Man."
|Review # 2 was written on 2017-02-24 00:00:00|
Overall, I would give this collection a B- average (technically an 80.8% avg.) as far as the quality of the poems contained. I know that attempting to quantify poetic effect/value is a ridiculous gesture, but I am simply a ridiculous person. Of course, this is purely based off of my own tastes and will not necessarily reflect your average satisfaction rate. I started a mission in October of 2016 to read the entire Best American Poetry series so that I can begin to get a better sense of A) what my taste in poetry is, and B) my own poetic voice. One of the reasons that 2008 gets two stars is because of Charles Wright's lack of responsibility as an editor of a series that claims to represent the Best of American Poetry. Among the editions of the last ten years (2016-2006), BAP 2008 has the most glaring inequality of magazine sources. With 13/75 poems selected from The New Yorker, one publication comprises nearly 18% of the BAP 2008 poems. On top of that, pieces from Poetry make up 7% with 5/75. That makes 25% of an entire BAP year dedicated to just two magazines. My expectation for Best American Poetry is embedded within the title. I expect it to represent the best of American poetry. All of it. The fact that Wright took his editing duties lightly enough to select 13 poems from one magazine is a sign, to me, of not taking on the responsibility that the name Best American Poetry demands. To be clear, I have no intention here of attacking Wright as a poet (I have not read nearly enough of him to weigh in), nor do I have anything against The New Yorker as a publication (they have published some of my absolute favorite writers). I raise this issue out of my concern for the well-being of American Poetry. BAP is, for many readers, their only contact with today's sea of poetry. Year after year, readers rely on BAP's editors to cull their collection from outlets across the nation - not just longstanding East Coast establishments. A simple Google search would prevent smaller state-based poetry publications from getting lost in the shuffle; online magazines would not even require the suspense of delivery. It is easier than ever to find publications (even back in 2007/2008) and there are no excuses for a single magazine to be selected from more than three times. Those who oppose my stance may point out that just because The New Yorker was chosen 13 times doesn't necessarily mean that a New York native or dweller was chosen 13 times. Even if that was entirely true, I would remain concerned about the squandered sales bump that lesser known outlets receive, to some extent, by being included in BAP. If Wright would have stuck to a rule of three poems max per magazine, perhaps ten other lesser-known publications could have benefitted from some BAP recognition. This makes the inequality of this edition not only philosophically troubling but commercially irresponsible. I wish that this were my only concern about Wright's editorial duties, but the very first poem of the collection raised another red flag. Tom Andrews' "Evening Song" is a fairly good poem, but the fact that Andrews also happens to have published a book of essays about the poetry of Charles Wright was a little too convenient for my taste. It is unlikely that Wright was unaware of Andrews and his work before choosing (or seeking out) Andrews' poem for inclusion in BAP 2008. Even if Wright genuinely thought it to be among the best American poetry of the year, the choice still comes off on paper as a disturbing indicator of literary circle jerking and academic pay-to-play. As far as the poems BAP 2008, I am both happily bewildered and reasonably annoyed with the range of pieces and forms that can be considered poetry now. I am by no means a conservative thinker when it comes to art, but I am also somebody who has standards and expectation for what they read and can consider part of a genre. While I read BAP 2008, it became more clear to me than ever that poetry is becoming a dumping ground for whatever doesn't fit easily into another more defined genre like memoir, fiction, etc. Exhibit A: Kate Daniels' "Homage to Calvin Spotswood" I have no problem with the content of Daniels' piece, a provocative reflection on race and degraded/deteriorating humanity. However, I hesitate to call it a poem. The only formal aspect that makes it look vaguely like a poem and not a short story draft are the random line breaks. Read the first sentence and see for yourself: "Because I couldn't bear to go back to the southside of Richmond and the life I had led there - the blaring televisions, the chained up hounds, the cigarettes hissing in ceramic saucers, the not never's, I'm fixin' to's, the ain'ts ' because anything at all was better than that, I took the job." Now with no line breaks: "Because I couldn't bear to go back to the southside of Richmond and the life I had led there - the blaring televisions, the chained up hounds, the cigarettes hissing in ceramic saucers, the not never's, I'm fixin' to's, the ain'ts ' because anything at all was better than that, I took the job." I mean... really. What makes this poetry and not a short story? That I would like to know. If it isn't particularly poetic and if nearly looks like a short story on the page with its long lines, then why not make it one? It would be perfectly fine that way, better even. It is not intention to be a troll here, I am just genuinely curious to find out why this merits consideration as a poem and a not a scrap of prose. Perhaps this is just me being a novice, perhaps I am just curious about an intellectually stimulating question about genre boundaries. In any case, I find it to be an issue worth exploring. Masterpieces (7) Robert Bly, Wanting Sumptuous Heavens Chris Forhan, Rock Polisher W. S. Merwin, A Letter to Su Tong P'o Ron Padgett, Method Patti Smith, Tara Kathryn Starbuck, The Shoe C. K. Williams, Light Masterful (7) James Galvin, Girl Without her Nightgown Bob Hicok, O my pa-pa J.D. McClatchy, Resignation Davis McCombs, The Last Wolf in Edmonson County D. Nurkse, The Gate of Abraham David Young, The Dead from Iraq Dean Young, No Forgiveness Ode Masters Candidates (7) Ralph Angel, Exceptions and Melancholies Moira Egan, Millay Goes Down Louise Glück, Threshing George Kalamars, Francis Ponge Is on Fire Alan Sullivan, Divide and Conquer James Tate, National Security Natasha Trethewey, On Captivity Overall, I would absolutely to highly recommend approx. 28% of the poems contained in this volume.
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