Loads of Learned Lumber

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Charles Wright & David Lehman, eds, _The Best American Poetry 2008_

OBVIOUSLY ABSURD PRETENSIONS of the title aside, I enjoy this series -- this volume not so much as some others, but it was nonetheless worthwhile as usual.

As for periodicals represented, Charles Wright seems to have gone more for the less adventurous ones: Meridian, Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, American Poetry Review, Hudson, Kenyon... and thirteen (!) poems from the New Yorker. The New Yorker is inarguably printing more interesting poetry these days than it has for a while, but thirteen out of seventy-five?

In the hoot department, there is nothing in this volume quite as funny as Mark Halliday's "Best Am Po" in the 2007 volume, but Bob Hicok's "O my pa-pa" comes close: "Our fathers have formed a poetry workshop. / They sit in a circle of disappointment over our fastballs / and wives." The poets' fathers have been reading their sons' many disenchanted poems about them, and they are not happy: "[...] they've read every word and noticed / that our nine happy poems have balloons and sex / and giraffes inside, but not one dad waving hello / from the top of a hill at dusk."

I always hope for a new discovery or two from each volume in this series, and this one did not disappoint. Dave Snyder's "Hexagon: On Truth" intriguingly combined description of an astronomy telescope with Maeterlinck's account of the lives of bees, and Lynn Xu's "Language exists because..." memorably concludes, "I am not asking you to die for me. Say you will die for me."

I don't know why I thought this was cool, but the volume ended with a nice run of four Youngs: C. Dale, David, Dean, and Kevin.

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