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The 2018 edition of the Best American Poetry—“a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune)—collects the most significant poems of the year, chosen by Poet Laureate of California Dana Gioia. The guest editor for 2018, Dana Gioia, has an unconventional poetic background. Gioia has published five volumes of poetry, served as the Chairman of the Natio The 2018 edition of the Best American Poetry—“a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune)—collects the most significant poems of the year, chosen by Poet Laureate of California Dana Gioia. The guest editor for 2018, Dana Gioia, has an unconventional poetic background. Gioia has published five volumes of poetry, served as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and currently sits as the Poet Laureate of California, but he is also a graduate of Stanford Business School and was once a Vice President at General Foods. He has studied opera and is a published librettist, in addition to his prolific work in critical essay writing and editing literary anthologies. Having lived several lives, Gioia brings an insightful, varied, eclectic eye to this year’s Best American Poetry. With his classic essay “Can Poetry Matter?”, originally run in The Atlantic in 1991, Gioia considered whether there is a place for poetry to be a part of modern American mainstream culture. Decades later, the debate continues, but Best American Poetry 2018 stands as evidence that poetry is very much present, relevant, and finding new readers.


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The 2018 edition of the Best American Poetry—“a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune)—collects the most significant poems of the year, chosen by Poet Laureate of California Dana Gioia. The guest editor for 2018, Dana Gioia, has an unconventional poetic background. Gioia has published five volumes of poetry, served as the Chairman of the Natio The 2018 edition of the Best American Poetry—“a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune)—collects the most significant poems of the year, chosen by Poet Laureate of California Dana Gioia. The guest editor for 2018, Dana Gioia, has an unconventional poetic background. Gioia has published five volumes of poetry, served as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and currently sits as the Poet Laureate of California, but he is also a graduate of Stanford Business School and was once a Vice President at General Foods. He has studied opera and is a published librettist, in addition to his prolific work in critical essay writing and editing literary anthologies. Having lived several lives, Gioia brings an insightful, varied, eclectic eye to this year’s Best American Poetry. With his classic essay “Can Poetry Matter?”, originally run in The Atlantic in 1991, Gioia considered whether there is a place for poetry to be a part of modern American mainstream culture. Decades later, the debate continues, but Best American Poetry 2018 stands as evidence that poetry is very much present, relevant, and finding new readers.

30 review for Best American Poetry 2018

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I read a lot of poetry, a lot. But I learned a few things about the current state of poetry from this anthology of the Best American Poetry 2018, or at least I learned something about how I consume poetry differently than Dana Gioia, the editor, does. 1. Dana is a man. I have never read his work, and should. 2. There are more rhyming poems being produced in 2018 than I would have thought. Or is it that Dana Gioia is more drawn to rhyming poems? I felt like there were a lot of them in this antholog I read a lot of poetry, a lot. But I learned a few things about the current state of poetry from this anthology of the Best American Poetry 2018, or at least I learned something about how I consume poetry differently than Dana Gioia, the editor, does. 1. Dana is a man. I have never read his work, and should. 2. There are more rhyming poems being produced in 2018 than I would have thought. Or is it that Dana Gioia is more drawn to rhyming poems? I felt like there were a lot of them in this anthology comparatively. Maybe we could ask the hero of The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, who also loved rhyming poems (but saw them as something people no longer appreciated.) 3. Most of the poems Dana Gioia is consuming are coming from literary publications, where one poem from a poet is printed/published. Most of the poems I am consuming come from single-author collections, because I don't even try to keep up with the multiple publications and tend to pick collections based on reviews, publisher tables and deals at AWP, advanced reader copies in NetGalley and Edelweiss, award nominees, etc. These awards are for collections, not individual poems. But the poems getting anthologized are not necessarily in a collection... at least not yet. This is their infancy. As such I only had immediate recognition of two poems in this anthology, that I had probably read in actual collections and not where he got them from. 4. Instagram and Tumblr have gotten noticed. And Gioia chooses at least one poem that first came out in this format. Very 21st century of him. My standouts include: Against Dying by Kaveh Akbar (read on poets.org "...I spent so long in a lover’s quarrel with my flesh the peace seems over- cautious too-polite...." Ghost Ship by Sonia Greenfield (read on Rattle) Thanks to the publisher for giving me access to this title through Edelweiss. It's really gotten me thinking about how much an editor influences the selection in an anthology like this. It comes out 18 September 2018.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peycho Kanev

    BRUCE BOND Anthem The music of the anthem has no boundary, no sworn allegiance, no nation save the one we lower into its dying body. A soldier kneels over a soldier’s grave, and the tune is not the name he reads but the hand that brushes the dirt to read it. If you search the anthems of the world, you see grief turn to pride, pride to spite. Soon a motherland is deaf with words. The music of the anthem does not decry the politics of dissonance or closure. It affirms nothing. And thus, it never lies, never bre BRUCE BOND Anthem The music of the anthem has no boundary, no sworn allegiance, no nation save the one we lower into its dying body. A soldier kneels over a soldier’s grave, and the tune is not the name he reads but the hand that brushes the dirt to read it. If you search the anthems of the world, you see grief turn to pride, pride to spite. Soon a motherland is deaf with words. The music of the anthem does not decry the politics of dissonance or closure. It affirms nothing. And thus, it never lies, never breaks the news in secret, the sons set down in steady heartbeats: one, one, one. DICK DAVIS A Personal Sonnet How strange this life is mine, and not another, This jigsaw . . . each irrevocable piece. That bad, unfinished business of my brother, Dead at nineteen; my gadding years in Greece And Italy; life lived, not understood; A sunset in Kerala, when it seemed The sun had risen on my life for good. All this was real, but seems now as if dreamed. The presences I’ve loved, and poetry— Faces I cannot parse or paraphrase Whose mystery is all that they reveal; The Persian poets who laid hands on me And whispered that all poetry is praise: These are the dreams that turned out to be real.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Timons Esaias

    As a writer and teacher, I'm a regular consumer of Best of the Year anthologies, which are the simplest way to "keep up" with a field. This is my first experience with the Best American Poetry series, which is a bit ironic, since I've been reading the Rittenhouse anthologies from a century ago, which were the equivalent. Yes, the poetry was quite good. Gioia remarks in his Introduction that form seems to be making a comeback, and the collection includes rather more of it that I would have expecte As a writer and teacher, I'm a regular consumer of Best of the Year anthologies, which are the simplest way to "keep up" with a field. This is my first experience with the Best American Poetry series, which is a bit ironic, since I've been reading the Rittenhouse anthologies from a century ago, which were the equivalent. Yes, the poetry was quite good. Gioia remarks in his Introduction that form seems to be making a comeback, and the collection includes rather more of it that I would have expected. Interesting. His fundamental observation, though is this: "It is impossible to read new literary poems without noticing how much more important sound has become." This is a solid and varied collection, leaning heavily to the academic taste. I was amused by Andrew Bertaina's prose poem "A Translator's Note", and put special marks of approval next to the following, in the TOC: Brendan Constantine, "The Opposites Game" Robert Cording, "Toast to My Dead Parents" Cynthia Cruz, "Artuad" [a very cleverly done found poem] Adrienne Su, "Substitutions" James Matthew Wilson, "On a Palm" A.E. Stallings has a poem about pencils, and I was surprised that her note about the poem didn't mention W.S. Merwin's "The Unwritten" (which I only recently discovered), but she does remind us of Elizabeth Bishop's "12 O'clock News" and Cavafy's "The Inkwell"; Robert Graves's "Love without Hope"; and Theodore Roethke's "Dolor". Speaking of the end notes, one of the features of this volume is that the author bios often include "author statements" about the poems. This is some 53 pages of material, more than a third of the number of pages allotted to the poems themselves. Many of these are works of art on their own (Dante Di Stefano, for instance), or instructive (Stephan Kampa) and I read them all as a result. But. But. Several of them are maximally annoying. They are illustrations of the immortal truth that there is no bullshit like the academic poet's bullshit when trying to explain their poems using critic's hogwashisms and pseudo-intellectual swillspeak rather than writing as though one knew and respected the meaning of words. That crap is an insult to the intelligence of any speaker of English. The editors should not have allowed it (though they probably swim in it much of the time, alas). St. Peter will spurn it. Buddha will sadly hand out tickets for multiple rebirth. Zoroaster will not ruin the purity of his fire with such stuff. But for that, I'd have given this five stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alarie

    I’ve met Dana Gioia, respect Dana Gioia, and heard him read, but I had the same problem with this collection that I do with most collections of this sort. We don’t share the same tastes, not even 50 percent of the time, which is really all I’d hope for. The 2017 edition, edited by Natasha Trethewey, was the one time I gave The BAP of the year 5 stars. That said, there were poems I consider 5 star. In the name of fairness, I’ll list a few that really impressed me: Allison Adair, “Miscarriage”; Ka I’ve met Dana Gioia, respect Dana Gioia, and heard him read, but I had the same problem with this collection that I do with most collections of this sort. We don’t share the same tastes, not even 50 percent of the time, which is really all I’d hope for. The 2017 edition, edited by Natasha Trethewey, was the one time I gave The BAP of the year 5 stars. That said, there were poems I consider 5 star. In the name of fairness, I’ll list a few that really impressed me: Allison Adair, “Miscarriage”; Kaveh Akbar, whom I just discovered this year, “Against Dying”; Andrew Bertaina, “A Translator’s Note”; Susan De Sola, “The Wives of the Poets”; Terence Hayes, “American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin”; Mary Ruefle, “Genesis”; Kay Ryan, “Some Transcendent Addiction to the Useless”; Adrienne Su, “Substitutions”; and Natasha Trethewey, “Shooting Wild.” That isn’t a complete list of the poems I might have selected myself, but that’s a moot point, so enough.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Antonia

    This year’s edition of BAP features more formal poems than I can ever remember in previous editions. That is no surprise, since the guest editor is Dana Gioia, a well-known formalist, founder and former co-director of the West Chester Poetry Conference, which focuses on form and narrative. I was glad to see so many formalists included in these pages — even though a few of the poems seemed, to me, a bit sing-songy, that fate of much formal verse (which can make it sound lighter than intended). Ove This year’s edition of BAP features more formal poems than I can ever remember in previous editions. That is no surprise, since the guest editor is Dana Gioia, a well-known formalist, founder and former co-director of the West Chester Poetry Conference, which focuses on form and narrative. I was glad to see so many formalists included in these pages — even though a few of the poems seemed, to me, a bit sing-songy, that fate of much formal verse (which can make it sound lighter than intended). Overall, I liked more poems in this collection than I have in recent years, whether formal or not. My favorites in this collection were by Kaveh Akbar, Frank Bidart, George Bradley, Maryann Corbett, Tony Hoagland, A. E. Stallings, Anne Stevenson, Adrienne Su, and Natasha Trethewey. Many of the poems, though, seemed not as good as what I’m accustomed to reading online and I wondered if maybe these are the best that “highbrow” or academic poetry journals have to offer. I prefer poetry that’s written for a wider audience than many of these poems seem to be. Occasionally, I had to ask (myself) “What makes this a poem?” Of 50 periodicals listed (excluding one I could not find at all: Met Magazine), 36 are print-only or have a limited online presence (e.g., a few selections from the print editions), and many of these have pretty small print runs. A couple of the poems included are from books and one's from BuzzFeed. I would like to see more online journals represented in these BAP collections. There's so much good writing online these days, for instance in The 2River View, The Cortland Review, Dodging the Rain, Eclectica, The Ghazal Page, Halfway Down the Stairs, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Mad Hatters Review, Mudlark, The Pedestal Magazine, Stirring, Switched-On Gutenberg, and Valparaiso Poetry Review, to name but a few.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    “Best American Poetry 2018” offers a truly wonderful selection of poems in one of the best such anthologies available. Highly recommended! 5/5 Pub Date 18 Sep 2018    Thanks to Scribner and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are fully mine. #BestAmericanPoetry2018 #NetGalley

  7. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    A singularly beautiful collection of poems, introducing me to dozens of poets I somehow had never heard of or read as well as poets I love but poems I'd missed. Best American is always a good place to start, and Dana Gioia is the poetic equivalent of a literary omnivore--including a wonderful range of work in form and subject matter. My favorite poems in the collection include Ilya Kaminsky's "We Lived Happily During the War": "And when they bombed other people's houses, we protested but not enou A singularly beautiful collection of poems, introducing me to dozens of poets I somehow had never heard of or read as well as poets I love but poems I'd missed. Best American is always a good place to start, and Dana Gioia is the poetic equivalent of a literary omnivore--including a wonderful range of work in form and subject matter. My favorite poems in the collection include Ilya Kaminsky's "We Lived Happily During the War": "And when they bombed other people's houses, we protested but not enough, we opposed them but not enough. I was in my bed, around my bed America was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house..." And Terrence Hayes' "American Sonnet for my Past and Future Assassin": "The black poet would love to say his century began With Hughes or, God forbid, Wheatley, but actually It began with all the poetry weirdos & worriers, warriors, Poetry winters & winos..." Susan de Sola's "Wives of the Poets": "The wives of the poets, they never complain. The know they are married to drama and pain..." Gary Snyder's "Why California will Never Be Like Tuscany": "...Sixty thousand vacant solid fireproof Italian farm houses on the market in 1970, scattered across the land. Sixty thousand affluent foreigners, to fix them, learn to cook, and write a book..." And so many more. A book full of pleasures... it will stay out on the counter while so I can pick up and re-read at random.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jessica C Writes

    This was a decent collection of poetry, but not one that I connected with too much. I skipped last quite a few that I was really not interested in. However, I really enjoyed about 5 or 6 of the poems, enough to give this collection 3 stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John

    I decided to read this book because the editor, Dana Gioia, has been a great advocate of poets often overlooked but of outstanding talent. His work fostering and furthering the state of poetry is peerless. But this series is subject to personal taste as much as it to what constitutes quality work. What, therefore, does it mean to be categorized as the best? I could only find a handful of poems I thought were really good. Sometimes, things that start out stating “the best” cannot deliver.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adnan

    Like always, the two introductions are my favorite segments. But I favor this volume over Best American Poetry 2017, and The Best American Poetry 2015; with Best American Poetry 2016 being my favorite. Some poems have grabbed my attention: Allison Adair's Miscarriage, Joyce Clement's Birds Punctuate the Days, Maryann Corbett's Prayer Concerning the New, More "Accurate" Translation of Certain Prayers, Warren Decker's Today's Special, Nausheen Eusuf's Pied Beauty, Jessica Goodfellow's Test, Ernest Like always, the two introductions are my favorite segments. But I favor this volume over Best American Poetry 2017, and The Best American Poetry 2015; with Best American Poetry 2016 being my favorite. Some poems have grabbed my attention: Allison Adair's Miscarriage, Joyce Clement's Birds Punctuate the Days, Maryann Corbett's Prayer Concerning the New, More "Accurate" Translation of Certain Prayers, Warren Decker's Today's Special, Nausheen Eusuf's Pied Beauty, Jessica Goodfellow's Test, Ernest Hilbert's Mars Ultor, Marie Howe's Walking Home, Alfred Nicol's Addendum, Aaron Poochigian's Happy Birthday, Herod, Ruben Quesada's Angels in the Sun, and Michael Shewmaker's Advent. Generally, the poems become more politically progressive with the years, and little do we see abstract or authentic poems. Self-exaltation took over American poetry. Locating, and defending the downtrodden, can be a legitimate subject of poetry—provided, it is strong and artistically valuable. When other, cheaper forms, are presented, I can hardly call this poetry, let alone poetry deserving of being preserved. I am not disappointed at Dana Gioia (in Arabic, Dana is a feminine name, meaning big pearl), for his selections, as a lot of them were good. But I wish he had skipped the 7-pages-long poems, and also the overly political junk. All in all, a good volume deserving to be read to get a good idea of the direction of poetry today.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I always enjoy these annual collections, both for seeing new work from old favorites as well as finding many new voices. Dana Gioia did a fantastic job with this year's selections, including a variety of styles and subjects and authors, and I bookmarked quite a few to come back and read again. I also appreciated his Introduction and the observations/discussion about the recent wave of "Instagram Poets," a debate that has many people talking about and reading poetry once again (hooray!). Ultimate I always enjoy these annual collections, both for seeing new work from old favorites as well as finding many new voices. Dana Gioia did a fantastic job with this year's selections, including a variety of styles and subjects and authors, and I bookmarked quite a few to come back and read again. I also appreciated his Introduction and the observations/discussion about the recent wave of "Instagram Poets," a debate that has many people talking about and reading poetry once again (hooray!). Ultimately, it's Gioia's openness to all poets and types of poetry that make this collection a stand out: "New forms of poetry don't eliminate established forms, but they do influence and modify them. Culture is not binary but dialectical. Poetry now has as many categories as popular music. What plays at Harvard won't get anyone on the dance floor in East Los Angeles, and that's just fine. All styles are possible, all approaches open, and everyone is invited." *Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, provided by the author and/or the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/175703... Dana Gioia has written a marvelous introduction to this 2018 edition of the Best American Poetry. He makes a good argument for being open to and tolerant of today’s many different styles of poetry. But one point he makes regarding his process for selecting these “best” poems was that they moved him emotionally. And as much as I actually hate poetry in general, his important requirement gave me hope for a possibly rewarding experience. As a reader and poet https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/175703... Dana Gioia has written a marvelous introduction to this 2018 edition of the Best American Poetry. He makes a good argument for being open to and tolerant of today’s many different styles of poetry. But one point he makes regarding his process for selecting these “best” poems was that they moved him emotionally. And as much as I actually hate poetry in general, his important requirement gave me hope for a possibly rewarding experience. As a reader and poet myself, I have been moved by the likes of American poets Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Jack Gilbert, and even Raymond Carver. My standard for good poetry bases itself on the works of the above-mentioned artists. It is very difficult for me to derive any pleasure from hip hop, rap, rhymes, or any rhetorical poem that fails to move me immediately. I have a certain bent for the lyrical, but the language takes precedence over any message. Personal agendas not only defile the page but cause me great harm. I welcome being disturbed by language itself, not by what the writer is trying to say. I love being surprised and this was my great wish for this reading experience. The very first poem in the collection, Miscarriage by Allison Adair, met my personal criteria. She drew me in immediately and left me satisfied at the end. From that poem on it became the typical entries from periodicals and magazines like The New Yorker, Poetry, and other academic journals that just bore me to death. Words matter. Every word. And each syllable contributes to the joy that can be had in reading a good poem. The body knows when it is being moved. And meaning can come from even the very best nonsense poem. Personal agendas and literal reportage do not make for good poems. Stating the most topical fact or injustice of the day does not meet the creative requirements of shaping a good poem. Even history has not been a friend of the good poem. It seems to have been all muddled in political correctness and not wanting to hurt a sensitive poet’s feelings. Jack Gilbert was infamous for doing just that. As poetry editor in the early sixties of Gordon Lish’s magazine called Genesis West, Jack Gilbert insisted on publishing great poems. The popular poets of day were routinely rejected and angered by Gilbert’s perceived meanness in his response. In the ensuing uproar Gordon Lish had to let him go even though he agreed with him. Giola claims in his introduction that a poem considered for inclusion had to emotionally move him otherwise he would reject it. Miscarriage was certainly an excellent beginning, but from then on mediocrity ruled the day until a bit past the halfway mark when I discovered a poem by Kay Ryan titled Some Transcendent Addiction to the Useless. Ryan made good use of words available to all of us and crafts a clever poem. The only other poem worth mentioning in this collection was Advent by Michael Shewmaker. Examples of good poetry will go further in producing better poets of the future than officially declaring inferior poems to erringly be the best. Reputable magazines consistently publish crappy poems and it does a disservice to the history of poetry. None of the poems I have so far read in this collection will ever be remembered in the days and years to come. The following is an exemplary example of a narrative poem based on a specific date of infamy, the terrorist attack on our United States on September 11, 2001. (The poem was, of course, rejected by The New Yorker.) Mewl House in September It was the beauty of the date, the clearness of the morning’s possibility that destroyed our well-being. Imagine a fiery bird hanging from a word. And a subjugated sun and the plumes that made history. The largeness of dread, of humanity scrambling, covered with dust and the violence of futility. Those were anxious moments before the spade. The polemical sense of innocence and provocation. And the cloud of horror in the order to go about our day. __M Sarki

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Bertaina

    I loved, A Personal Sonnet by Dick Davis, originally in The Hudson Review. Into the Mystery by Tony Hoagland, originally in The Sun. Sono, by Suji Kwock Kim, originally in Southword. Palazzo Maldura by Karl Kirtchwey from Plume. Face it by Ryan Wilson from The New Criterion. Using Black to Paint Light: Walking Through a Matisse Exhibit Thinking about the Arctic and Mathew Henson by Robin Coste Lewis from Gulf Coast. Walkman by Micahel Robbins from the Paris Review. A lot of loveliness.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten Tattersall

    I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Personally, I wasn't a fan of a good half of the poetry in this collection. I feel like I read plenty of better poetry from 2018 that was not in this book. The other half was real quality stuff. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Personally, I wasn't a fan of a good half of the poetry in this collection. I feel like I read plenty of better poetry from 2018 that was not in this book. The other half was real quality stuff.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    Favorites: * The Opposites Game, by Brendan Constantine * Ghost Ship, by Sonia Greenfield * The Quiet Boy, by Stephen Kampa

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    I never rate poetry collections.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I’m constantly looking for contemporary poetry that is meaningful (as a reader and a teacher) and this collection inspired me to order poetry from at least three of the poets in the collection! That includes new US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Terrance Hayes (you want to see him explore the sonnet form in a whole new way), and Brendan Constantine, a poet whose poem “The Opposites Game” sent shivers down my spine! If you want to take a look at the state of poetry in the US Right now, this is the one I’m constantly looking for contemporary poetry that is meaningful (as a reader and a teacher) and this collection inspired me to order poetry from at least three of the poets in the collection! That includes new US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Terrance Hayes (you want to see him explore the sonnet form in a whole new way), and Brendan Constantine, a poet whose poem “The Opposites Game” sent shivers down my spine! If you want to take a look at the state of poetry in the US Right now, this is the one to read!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    "A poem is an interruption of silence, whereas prose is a continuation of noise." Billy Collins Best American Poetry 2018 edited by Dana Gioia is this years edition of David Lehman's yearly poetry anthology. Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. He received a B.A. and an M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Gioia has published four full-length collections of "A poem is an interruption of silence, whereas prose is a continuation of noise." Billy Collins Best American Poetry 2018 edited by Dana Gioia is this years edition of David Lehman's yearly poetry anthology. Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. He received a B.A. and an M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Gioia has published four full-length collections of poetry, as well as eight chapbooks. This years edition features seventy-five poets as well as a short biography of each. Lehman opens the collection with his state of poetry address. The New Yorker still publishes poetry. David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, explains: Poetry is arguably, in some compressed and magical fashion, the highest form of expression, the greatest devotion we have to our most intricate invention, language itself. That pretty much explains poetry and its importance to language and expression. Even so, poetry seems to have lost the common reader and many uncommon readers. Poetry seems to be on the fringe of literature even among those who attend universities for degrees in literature. I am surprised at the number of people in the field who have not read major poets. Like Lehman, I have also become concerned at the number of "internet sensations" who have published "poetry" in the form of short platitudes or trite cliches. Perhaps, like Lehman hopes, these are gateways to real poetry, but they seem more likely to be saying "I would love poetry if it were not poetry." This collection, as Gioia mentions, contains a wide variety of poetry: prose poetry, sonnets, free verse, but no internet sensations. The internet has skewed the popularity of poetry. YouTube readings reach millions of people instead of twenty sitting at a coffee shop reading. Poetry Slams and other events see many more people online than in person. Poetry is getting out, but not always in the traditional means. The poetry section at a Barnes and Noble is smaller than the particle physics section (not really, but close). Traditional poetry media seems to be fading. Poetry magazine has two apps. One that has the magazine and another with a poetry database and a fun "find a poem" feature. Jennifer Benka at the Academy of American Poets emails out daily poems. Poetry is still getting out, but it may not always be in book form. Television has even picked up poetry. Rugged Sheriff Longmire read John Donne, and Breaking Bad used Walt Whitman's "When I heard The Learn'd Astronomer." Apple and Volvo have turned to poetry in their advertisements. Not all is good though. Universities are churning out advanced degrees but not hiring. Adjunct positions are replacing tenured positions to save money. Even so, poets are adapting. No longer are new poets the young professors but baristas, bookstore clerks, professionals, and people from all other walks of life. Technology has allowed more people to publish outside of academia, and social media helps get the word out to a vast audience. Poetry is not dying but merely adapting to the new environment. This year's collection presents Gioia's favorite poems. The poetry is varied and even contains a haiku-like poem -- Joyce Clement's "Birds Punctuate the Days." Dick Davis presents "A Personal Sonnet," keeping alive the old form of poetry. David Manson's "First Christmas in the Village" presents imagery and new experiences in a traditional form. Mike Owens rounds out the collection by taking on social and mental health issues in his "Sad Math." What is lacking in this year's collection is a clear-cut theme except, perhaps, the variety of poetry itself. The poetry is arranged alphabetically by the poet's name and not by topic or form; there is no build up or a traditional closing poem that helps connect the collection together. All the poems in the collection were new to me, and with the variety, I can say not all of them were equally liked in form or content. This year's selection was made special by the insight given by both Lehman and Gioia and the poetry used to support their premise. Best American Poetry 2018 is a win for American poetry.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Curry

    At the risk of sounding snarky, I have to say that the highlights of the 2018 edition in the Best American Poetry series are the two introductions by series editor David Lehman and guest editor Dana Gioiai and the epigraph from Delmore Schwartz for a poem by Susan de Sola: “All poets’ wives have rotten lives. Their husbands look at them like knives.” That couplet from the past has more energy, pitch and resonance than most of what we get in the poetry in this collection. Am I reprehensibly politic At the risk of sounding snarky, I have to say that the highlights of the 2018 edition in the Best American Poetry series are the two introductions by series editor David Lehman and guest editor Dana Gioiai and the epigraph from Delmore Schwartz for a poem by Susan de Sola: “All poets’ wives have rotten lives. Their husbands look at them like knives.” That couplet from the past has more energy, pitch and resonance than most of what we get in the poetry in this collection. Am I reprehensibly politically incorrect to entertain the notion that there was in the selection process for this volume too much concern with being representative and inclusive, at the cost of actual enthusiasm for the poems? Years ago, when I was editing and publishing the poetry magazine Apple (I came up with that name before either The Beatles or Steve Jobs), I recall someone asking how many African- American poets I had published. I replied that I had no idea. Is it unthinkable that an African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, LGBT (my own “category”) poet might write a poem about a dog, a grandmother’s apron, a gravy spoon, or a tree? All that said, this anthology is certainly not without poems that engage and satisfy the ear, the eye and the mind. Here, as pertinent as this evening’s news and yet rising above topicality, is Agnieszka Tworke’s “Grief Runs Untamed”: In one hand the exiles hold a bundle with a blanket, medicine, and a comb; in the other, a door handle. They attach it to every mountain and wall, hoping the handle will conjure the door that will open and let them in. Through the swamps, down the dirt roads, through the frigid water the exiles go, knowing they shall never return. In their former homes, if there are still homes, the wind wails. Spiders weave their shrouds over the cupboards and beds. Cats, left behind, wait to be scratched under their chins; a dog smells the scarf a young girl dropped and barks on the cellar stairs. Near the road thousands took to flee, a carcass of a cow still tied to the olive tree, abandoned like their tera sets and pots. A widow with children runs from the Guatemalan gangs. Newlyweds from Syria huddle in a dinghy in the Mediterranean, their wedding rings sold to help them pay the way. A couple from Sudan limp along on the scorched ground with their e epileptic son. Those who survive and settle in a new place sometimes dream at night of returning by foot to their native homes. When they wake up, they have blisters on their feet. Cultural displacement is a recurrent theme in this anthology, which certainly cannot be accused of failing to reflect the times.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Parker

    I should first admit that the Best American Poetry series is one of the annual volumes that I most look forward to each year. Each year I open its pages in search of some new poet that I didn’t know was missing from my life until I read their poem here. At the same time, each year, as one might expect, I am left wondering “is this really the best American poetry of the year”? Yes, I know, I’m one person judging one person’s view of the best poetry and all the complexities involved in making the I should first admit that the Best American Poetry series is one of the annual volumes that I most look forward to each year. Each year I open its pages in search of some new poet that I didn’t know was missing from my life until I read their poem here. At the same time, each year, as one might expect, I am left wondering “is this really the best American poetry of the year”? Yes, I know, I’m one person judging one person’s view of the best poetry and all the complexities involved in making the selection. But I still wonder. Ok, let’s dig in. To start with in the opening essays, there was yet another discussion that is basically summed up in the saying “Poetry is dead! Long live poetry!” Can we all admit that this discussion is the proverbial dead horse. Stop kicking it already. I mean seriously. It’s not a thing. On the flip side, I did enjoy the open discussion about the evolution of poetry mediums and our struggle to break our old paradigms and recognize them and the creators in those spaces. Now, onto the poems. Considering just 75 poems are included in this collection, the fact the 55 different sources are used is stellar. Gioia wasn’t kidding when he said he spent all of his time reading every poem he could find. For the curious among you, the top 3 sources were Poetry (5), The New Yorker (4), and The New Criterion (3). If there is anything to be judged from the top sources, I’ll leave that to the you. On the plus side, I was pleased to see my favorite poet of the year, Kaveh Akbar. That pretty much made the collection and we were only 2 poets in. Yes, there were a fair share of solid poets that I enjoyed, like Terrance Hayes, Joy Harjo, Terry Hoagland, Ilya Kaminsky, Robin Coste Lewis, Tracy K Smith, Jacqueline Osherow, Nkosi Nkululeko, Suji Kwock Kim, and Donika Kelly. On the other hand, I was definitely disappointed by the amount of more traditional rhyming poetry that really feel flat for me and seemed more enamored by the idea of rhyming than by the idea of combining rhyme with great ideas and imagery and creativity and making great poetry. I know Gioia loves him some rhyme and traditional forms, so I don’t fault him for trying to reintroduce us to it. I just wish that the selection had been stronger. All-in-all, it was a mixed bag, but that is how I usually feel. So did I find a new poet or two to make it worth the slog? I did. And that has made all the difference.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Cook

    This was my first "Best American Poetry" volume and hopefully won't be my last. A good poetry anthology ought to be required annual reading for every man, woman, and child. I still recall breezing through my favorite anthology, since lost I don't know where (there was a picture of a brooding Sylvia Plath on the cover), and have forgotten how welcome a good poetry collection can be in-between novels and non-fiction reading. This edition comes with a Forward from series founder David Lehman, and a This was my first "Best American Poetry" volume and hopefully won't be my last. A good poetry anthology ought to be required annual reading for every man, woman, and child. I still recall breezing through my favorite anthology, since lost I don't know where (there was a picture of a brooding Sylvia Plath on the cover), and have forgotten how welcome a good poetry collection can be in-between novels and non-fiction reading. This edition comes with a Forward from series founder David Lehman, and a useful Introduction from guest editor Dana Gioia. Poetry has always had a lot to say about the nature and status of poetry. Most of that running commentary has been essentially optimistic and Gioia's Introduction strikes the same familiar keys. The stuff of modern poetry, he argues, is not so much what we see in books but what gets shared on Twitter and Instagram. He saves a few words for Rupi Kaur, the Indian-Canadian poet of the stupidly popular "Milk and Honey" (2014) and asks readers, presciently, whether this is the kind of thing once lauded by the likes of Percy Shelley and Wallace Stevens. Thankfully, the anthology is made up of stronger stuff than this. There are a number of very lovely highly quotable poems ("Sherpa Song" and "Orient Epithalamion"), some lovely re-workings ("Pied Beauty," from the poem of the same title by Gerard Manley Hopkins), some longer poems and many in surprisingly recognizable formats, most notably in the amount of sonnets. The poems haven't been arranged in any particular order other than alphabetical and the collection doesn't have any overarching theme. I am inclined to prefer this methodlesness rather than something organized under headlines like "War" or "Politics" or "Poetry" but other readers might not like the random plunge. This collection won't ignite any poetry wars (despite the editors' claims that poetry is powerful and kicking, many readers won't come away from this book convinced it is anything more than a healthy, slightly more intellectual past-time than gardening), but it will ensure many happy moments and, with any luck, some fruitful rereading. Reviewed for Netgalley.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pop Bop

    A Sour Sampler 2018 may not have been a good year for professional poets. I'm reading this in 2020, and it might just be my exhaustion talking, but I thought that this collection had a grim and sour feel from beginning to end, and I rushed through it in places just to get it behind me. We start with an opening essay by the series editor that bemoans the state of poetry, (no news there), and the limited options for professional poets. We then segue into an odd and dismissive, ("Shagpats"?, poetaste A Sour Sampler 2018 may not have been a good year for professional poets. I'm reading this in 2020, and it might just be my exhaustion talking, but I thought that this collection had a grim and sour feel from beginning to end, and I rushed through it in places just to get it behind me. We start with an opening essay by the series editor that bemoans the state of poetry, (no news there), and the limited options for professional poets. We then segue into an odd and dismissive, ("Shagpats"?, poetasters?- really?), commentary on amateurs and the bad poetry that's appearing on the internet and Instagram and the like. Our guest editor picks up the baton by trying to put a happy spin on all of the unusual poetry going on out there, although he doesn't seem to be that honestly thrilled by the phenomenon. I could go on, but mostly it all boiled down to Frank Cross from the movie "Scrooged": "Fun? Fun? D'you see anybody having any fun here?". The selections themselves are all over the place. There doesn't appear to be any sort of theme or organizing principle, apart from the editor's observation that most of the poems he read were about the big five - "Family, Childhood, Love, Poetry, and Nature". If there is a theme, it is that the poems are expressions of the "voice of the individual". The overall tone, again, is sour, with many of the poems addressing one sort of grievance or another, (personal, cultural, historical, sexual, political, social, artistic). Of interest, the poems I favored, (and many other reviewers also liked, I see), tended to be the ones that were playful and innovative and tacked against that sour breeze. So, I don't know about "best", and I don't know about how wide ranging this sampler actually ended up being. That said, there are a fair number of poems of interest here, (to me), and there are a few insightful comments from the poets themselves, so this was worth reading. (Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    A mediocre installment in the Best American Poetry series. The collections are always hit-or-miss but this one seemed to have more misses than usual. U.S.A is such a huge and diverse country—it's understandable that editors feel the need to include a decent cross-section of contemporary poetry, but 2018's BAP feels like affirmative action. There are many poems about identity and otherness, some of them well-written (Adrienne Su's "Substitutions" and Mike Owens's "Sad Math"), others mediocre (Nko A mediocre installment in the Best American Poetry series. The collections are always hit-or-miss but this one seemed to have more misses than usual. U.S.A is such a huge and diverse country—it's understandable that editors feel the need to include a decent cross-section of contemporary poetry, but 2018's BAP feels like affirmative action. There are many poems about identity and otherness, some of them well-written (Adrienne Su's "Substitutions" and Mike Owens's "Sad Math"), others mediocre (Nkosi Nkululeko's "Skin Deep," Hieu Minh Mguyen's "B.F.F.," and Jacquelin Osherow's "Tilia cordata," which I enjoyed when it was just a bunch of clever slant-rhymed couplets about linden trees, then it turns into a nine-page poem on Jewishness and the Holocaust), others downright meritless (Wang Ping's "Lao Jia"). I appreciated the mix of different forms and free verse, but didn't appreciate the amount of multi-page poems. I've been reading Best American Poetry since 2007 when I was a junior in high school, and didn't start reading the Contributors' Notes til last year. Sometimes it's fun to get inside the mind of a poet. This time, the notes were dry and pretentious with few exceptions: Paul Hoover, Marie Howe, Stephen Kampa, and Mike Owens. I wasn't interested in reading about any of the poets' other projects, except for Jessica Piazza's Poetry Has Value. Poems that I liked: "Aconite" by Nate Klug, "Window" by Robert Morgan, "Addendum" by Alfred Nicol, "Bells' Knells" by Jessica Piazza, "A Violence" by Nicole Sealey, "Advent" by Michael Shewmaker, "Substitutions" by Adrienne Su, "On a Palm" by James Matthew Wilson. =8/75 (10.7%) poems that I liked.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ace Boggess

    Each year's volume of Best American Poetry brings me excitement about what I'll find inside. Lehman's introductions are often wonderful in themselves. As for the poetry, sometimes I find the whole collection accessible and insightful (2008, for example, is a personal favorite), while other times the choices are dense, impenetrable forests (I think of 2004 here). Most volumes though are a mix, and that's probably for the best. The last couple years have produced excellent volumes that I've enjoye Each year's volume of Best American Poetry brings me excitement about what I'll find inside. Lehman's introductions are often wonderful in themselves. As for the poetry, sometimes I find the whole collection accessible and insightful (2008, for example, is a personal favorite), while other times the choices are dense, impenetrable forests (I think of 2004 here). Most volumes though are a mix, and that's probably for the best. The last couple years have produced excellent volumes that I've enjoyed reading again and again. For 2018, Dana Gioia took the steering wheel and produced something, well, average or just slightly better. The poems in this volume are all good, but the book as a whole falls a little flat. For starters, Gioia apparently has more of a preference for rhyming poetry than most. I don't hate rhyming poetry, but too much of it takes my reading in a less meditative direction. Likewise, a lot of the poems here are myth poems, mostly Greek or Christian. Again, not a flaw, except that too much just grows tedious. Don't get me wrong, I thought this was a good volume. I just didn't find it a standout volume. In fact, it made me think of the "Blue Duck" episode of the Dilbert cartoon where Dilbert was tasked with finding the most marketable art. It was, of course, a blue duck. Nothing spectacular, but consumable en masse. This volume is a blue duck. It's good. It's readable. I'll probably read it a half dozen times before the next volume comes out. But it's not particularly challenging, experimental, or for most part, daring. It's just good poetry.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    A somewhat disappointing entry in the Best American Poetry series. As always with the series, the poems were by and large technically skilled and your mileage may vary, so my disappointment with it may not hold for you. I found fewer than the usual number of poems really resonated with me, giving fewer positive and weakly positive marks to the poems in this volume than I have done in a long time. The poems just seemed, overall, to be *flat* somehow--lacking in energy or sparkle or something. And A somewhat disappointing entry in the Best American Poetry series. As always with the series, the poems were by and large technically skilled and your mileage may vary, so my disappointment with it may not hold for you. I found fewer than the usual number of poems really resonated with me, giving fewer positive and weakly positive marks to the poems in this volume than I have done in a long time. The poems just seemed, overall, to be *flat* somehow--lacking in energy or sparkle or something. And you may not find that, clearly Dana Gioia didn't think that or he wouldn't have selected these as the 75 best poems published in 2017. My favorite poems were Andrew Bertaina's "A Translator's Note," Joyce Clement's "Birds Punctuate the Days", Nausheen Eusuf's "Pied Beauty", Joy Harjo's "An American Sunrise", Terrence Hayes's "American Sonnet for my Past and Future Assassin", Donika Kelly's "Love Poem: Chimera", Robin Coste Lewis's "Using Black to Paint Light: Walking Through a Matisse Exhibit Thinking about the Arctic and Matthew Henson", J. Allyn Rosser's "Persona Who Got Loose", and Nicole Sealy's "A Violence" (which are fully half of the poems I marked as liking). Check it out, see what you get out of it--not among their best for me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kerfe

    Two of my favorite pieces in this compilation were prose poems--Brendan Constantine's "The Opposites Game" and Wang Ping's "Lao Jia". Both consider language--how it resonates and layers itself with different meanings. Which is what the best poetry does, layering the universal and the personal, in sequence and all at once. The poems are presented alphabetically by author's name, and I really liked the end of the alphabet a lot. The beginning was also good; the middle was just OK. But that's the way Two of my favorite pieces in this compilation were prose poems--Brendan Constantine's "The Opposites Game" and Wang Ping's "Lao Jia". Both consider language--how it resonates and layers itself with different meanings. Which is what the best poetry does, layering the universal and the personal, in sequence and all at once. The poems are presented alphabetically by author's name, and I really liked the end of the alphabet a lot. The beginning was also good; the middle was just OK. But that's the way of collections. Especially with poetry, so dependent on the who what when where and why of you when you encounter it. I want to also single out the always amazing Terrance Hayes for his rethinking of the sonnet, Stephen Kampa's "The Quiet Boy" for its heartbreaking depiction of adolescence, Robert Morgan's "Window" for its reflection of the natural world, Tracy K. Smith's "An Old Story" for its truth, Natasha Trethewey's "Shooting Wild" which flows so beautifully and devastatingly, and James Matthew Wilson's "On a Palm", a meditation on aging. Obviously a good year for verse.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I love the format of The Best American Poetry. Not only do we have gorgeous poetry to savor, but each poet gives a peek inside what inspired the poem, or a look at their process for creating this poem. There were a few poets I already have read--Sharon Olds, Tony Hoagland, Terrance Hayes, Natasha Trethaway, Marie Howe, Julia Alvarez, Frank Bidart, Joy Harjo, J. Allyn Rosser, Mary Ruefle, Kay Ryan, Tracy L. Smith, Gary Snyder...but the bulk of the poets were new to me...and what surprises there w I love the format of The Best American Poetry. Not only do we have gorgeous poetry to savor, but each poet gives a peek inside what inspired the poem, or a look at their process for creating this poem. There were a few poets I already have read--Sharon Olds, Tony Hoagland, Terrance Hayes, Natasha Trethaway, Marie Howe, Julia Alvarez, Frank Bidart, Joy Harjo, J. Allyn Rosser, Mary Ruefle, Kay Ryan, Tracy L. Smith, Gary Snyder...but the bulk of the poets were new to me...and what surprises there were. I copied several poems to keep...Tony Hoagland's "Into the Mystery," Suji Kwack Kim's "Sono" Aimee Nuhukumatathil's "Invitation." And now, more: J.Allyn Rosser's "Personae Who Got Loose," "Voxel" by Jason Schneideran, "An Old Story" by Tracy K. Smith, "Lao Jia" by Wang Ping (Oh, stay with this poem, it is brilliant and will break your heart, "Face it," by Ryan Wilson, For poetry loves, this collection is such a profound gift. I can't recommend it enough. Read it slowly. Savor.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Hall

    This is a superior anthology. While it suffers some of the expected samples of prosetheatrical free verse, politically predictable, undisciplined, stream-of-unconsciousness I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my scribblings, there is also much good work in this edition. There are, for instance, two sonnets, and they really are sonnets, worked up with skill and thought, not just emotion, and not wandering free verse excused with the common (in two senses) well-it’s-a-sonnet-to-ME nonsense. Unlike the unhapp This is a superior anthology. While it suffers some of the expected samples of prosetheatrical free verse, politically predictable, undisciplined, stream-of-unconsciousness I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my scribblings, there is also much good work in this edition. There are, for instance, two sonnets, and they really are sonnets, worked up with skill and thought, not just emotion, and not wandering free verse excused with the common (in two senses) well-it’s-a-sonnet-to-ME nonsense. Unlike the unhappy selections in the 2019 edition, the poems this volume earn the reader’s attention. There are exceptions, of course, which is the nature of an anthology. My favorite is Dante Di Stefano’s “Reading Dostoyevsky at Seventeen,” which with imagination and craftsmanship remind us why The Brothers Karamazov appeals to the young, and which, after that first reading, appeals to the thoughtful man or woman with more rewards through re-readings for the rest of one’s life.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christina DeAngelis

    Favorites (cont.): Window by Robert Morgan from Southern Poetry Review B.F.F. by Hieu Minh Nguyen from Buzzfeed Silver Spoon Ode by Sharon Olds from The Nation Sad Math by Mike Owens from The Way Back The Week Before She Died by Elise Paschen from Virginia Quarterly Review Bells' Knells by Jessica Piazza from Smartish Pace Walkman by Michael Robbins from The Paris Review We'll Always Have Parents by Mary Jo Salter from The Common Voxel by Jason Schneiderman from The Literary Review A Violence by Nicole Se Favorites (cont.): Window by Robert Morgan from Southern Poetry Review B.F.F. by Hieu Minh Nguyen from Buzzfeed Silver Spoon Ode by Sharon Olds from The Nation Sad Math by Mike Owens from The Way Back The Week Before She Died by Elise Paschen from Virginia Quarterly Review Bells' Knells by Jessica Piazza from Smartish Pace Walkman by Michael Robbins from The Paris Review We'll Always Have Parents by Mary Jo Salter from The Common Voxel by Jason Schneiderman from The Literary Review A Violence by Nicole Sealey from The New Yorker Why California Will Never Be Like Tuscany by Gary Snyder from Catamaran Pencil by A. E. Stallings from The Atlantic Shooting Wild by Natasha Trethewey from Poet Love Grief Runs Untamed by Agnieszka Tworek from The Sun Lao Jia by Wang Ping from Poetry

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    Collection of 75 poems selected by California’s poet laureate, Dana Gioia. I read each poem twice, and also read the editor’s biographical notes about the poets whose works are in the books. Several poets also wrote comments about their poems that were selected for the book. The biographies and poets’ perspectives help one gain a better understanding of the poems. I found most of the poems to be thought provoking and found several quite beautiful. However, I did not find this collection of poems Collection of 75 poems selected by California’s poet laureate, Dana Gioia. I read each poem twice, and also read the editor’s biographical notes about the poets whose works are in the books. Several poets also wrote comments about their poems that were selected for the book. The biographies and poets’ perspectives help one gain a better understanding of the poems. I found most of the poems to be thought provoking and found several quite beautiful. However, I did not find this collection of poems to be as intellectually challenging, stimulating or enjoyable as last year’s collection. This is curious, as I am a fan of Gioia’s poems and writings. Maybe 2019’s collection will be more satisfying.

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