Loads of Learned Lumber

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Doty and Lehman, eds., _The Best American Poetry 2012_

YES, I KNOW, I'm a year behindhand with this--the arrival of the new BAP tends to be my annual reminder that I have yet to read the previous year's BAP. But it's always a pleasure catching up.

I'm working on a hypothesis that male-edited BAPs tend to be less aesthetically varied than female-edited BAPs, to include more poetry that is reminiscent of the editor's own work. Holds true in this instance, I'd say: lots of unrhymed couplets, lists of carefully observed details, orthodox but sometime elaborate syntax, flowers, music…the 2012 BAP leans to the Dotean.

But Doty is at least upfront about this.  "Anthology-making is, at least on one level, a form of self-portraiture," he notes in the volume's introduction (by the way, a better than usual effort in this odd genre). "This book might well be called Seventy-Five Poems Mark Likes, but who'd buy that?"

I might buy that, actually. For me, the highlights of the anthology were two long (13 and 12 pages) elegies in a narrative mode that evoked the Doty of My Alexandria and Atlantis, and thanks to the alphabet they were adjacent to each other: Spencer Reece's "The Road to Emmaus" and Paisley Rekdal's "Wax." Both poems play a long game, aren't nervous about being witty or erudite, and carry the wallop of the actually lived. I plan to look for more of the work of both poets.

I see Denise Duhamel is the editor this year's.  How cool is that?

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