THE BEST OF THE BEST AMERICAN POETRY 1988-1997
Guest Editor: HAROLD BLOOM

 
 
  Every year since 1988 a major poet has selected seventy-five poems for publication in The Best American Poetry. The series has quickly grown in both sales and prestige, as poetry itself has seen a remarkable resurgence in popularity and vitality, fueled by established poets at the peak of their powers and a new generation of daring voices. As we approach the millennium, now is the opportune moment to take stock of American poetry and choose the work that will stand the test of time.

But who to undertake the formidable task of reading all 750 poems anthologized in The Best American Poetry and picking the 75 "best of the best"? Series editor David Lehman writes that "since poets have done the selecting for the individual volumes, I thought to entrust this new task to a critic — preferably a fearless and influential one, with strong opinions, sophisticated taste, and a passion for poetry that matches any poet’s." That critic is Harold Bloom, author of The Anxiety of Influence and, more recently, The Western Canon. Undoubtedly one of the best-known critics of our age, Bloom precedes his selection with a compelling and highly provocative essay on the state of American letters, in which he fiercely champions the endangered realm of the aesthetic over the politically correct, announcing his "obligation to help (if that I can) make it possible for another Elizabeth Bishop or May Swenson or James Merrill to develop without being impeded by ideological demands." The seventy-five poems Bloom has chosen go a long way toward defining a contemporary canon of American poetry. Included are unforgettable poems from the poets mentioned above and from A.R.Ammons, John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Mark Strand, and Richard Wilbur, among many others. Diverse in form, style, method, and metaphor, the poems are united in their power to move and enlighten readers. Here is American poetry at its most memorable.

Also included are comments from the poets themselves about their work and fascinating excerpts from the introductory essays of the ten previous editors. The Best of the Best American Poetry reflects not only the taste of the current editor, but the predilections of the all-star list of poets who have contributed their time and intellect to make this series what it is today: a "valuable, invaluable, supervaluable" (Beloit Poetry Journal) record of an ever-changing, always exciting art.

 
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