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The 2019 edition of The Best American Poetry—“one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American Poets)—now guest edited by Major Jackson, award-winning poet and poetry editor of the Harvard Review. Since 1988, The Best American Poetry has been the leading anthology of contemporary American poetry. The Washington Post said of the 2017 edition, “The p The 2019 edition of The Best American Poetry—“one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American Poets)—now guest edited by Major Jackson, award-winning poet and poetry editor of the Harvard Review. Since 1988, The Best American Poetry has been the leading anthology of contemporary American poetry. The Washington Post said of the 2017 edition, “The poems...have a wonderful cohesion and flow, as if each contributes to a larger narrative about life today…While readers may question some of the selections—an annual sport with this series—most will find much that resonates, including the insightful author notes at the back of the anthology.” The state of the world has inspired many to write poetry, and to read it—to share all the rage, beauty, and every other thing under the sun in the way that only poetry can. Now the foremost anthology of contemporary American poetry returns, guest edited by Major Jackson, the poet and editor who, “makes poems that rumble and rock” (poet Dorianne Laux). This brilliant 2019 edition includes some of the year’s most defining, striking, and innovative poems and poets.


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The 2019 edition of The Best American Poetry—“one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American Poets)—now guest edited by Major Jackson, award-winning poet and poetry editor of the Harvard Review. Since 1988, The Best American Poetry has been the leading anthology of contemporary American poetry. The Washington Post said of the 2017 edition, “The p The 2019 edition of The Best American Poetry—“one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American Poets)—now guest edited by Major Jackson, award-winning poet and poetry editor of the Harvard Review. Since 1988, The Best American Poetry has been the leading anthology of contemporary American poetry. The Washington Post said of the 2017 edition, “The poems...have a wonderful cohesion and flow, as if each contributes to a larger narrative about life today…While readers may question some of the selections—an annual sport with this series—most will find much that resonates, including the insightful author notes at the back of the anthology.” The state of the world has inspired many to write poetry, and to read it—to share all the rage, beauty, and every other thing under the sun in the way that only poetry can. Now the foremost anthology of contemporary American poetry returns, guest edited by Major Jackson, the poet and editor who, “makes poems that rumble and rock” (poet Dorianne Laux). This brilliant 2019 edition includes some of the year’s most defining, striking, and innovative poems and poets.

30 review for The Best American Poetry 2019

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I have to give this anthology 5 stars because the best in it is surely 5 stars, and if not to me, to someone else. My main source of conflict is that I find I need the series editor or even this volume editor to define their use of the word "American." I assumed USA, since that is the fairly standard use of American on its own, while acknowledging that this has always been problematic. But two fairly prominent Canadians appear in these pages - Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen. Margaret is known I have to give this anthology 5 stars because the best in it is surely 5 stars, and if not to me, to someone else. My main source of conflict is that I find I need the series editor or even this volume editor to define their use of the word "American." I assumed USA, since that is the fairly standard use of American on its own, while acknowledging that this has always been problematic. But two fairly prominent Canadians appear in these pages - Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen. Margaret is known in her disdain for America (we are always her model for dystopia, after all, love you Margaret) and Leonard is a pure Canadian who can't possibly have written any new poetry in the last year (except there is new work in a 2018 collection, and I need to read this - The Flame.) And if this is indeed North American, where are the first-nations poets, the trans-Chinese-immigrant poets, the French translated poets from the various regions of Canada, all of whom I read extensively and loved last year? And if this is North American, where is Mexico? Why call it American if that's not the intent? I really am confused. I really think this needs clarification. I reread the preface and the intro but they are not clear. I did enjoy the introduction by the volume editor explaining how he chose the poems that "braved human connection" and were from multiple perspectives. He includes song lyrics, which I appreciated. And one of the reasons I love these anthologies is that I tend to read single-poet collections and they tend to select poems from various periodicals, which of course is often where they first appear. I prefer mine in context of a poet's work; there are other types of context that are useful - political, thematical, tribute, etc. So I don't often find poems I've previously encountered, although there are a few in this collection I've experienced in the past year. Only one misstep in my book - the poem by Philip Schultz called "The Women's March" was nice enough, but who wants to read a poem about the women's movement by a man? Sorry, I'm certain Philip is a nice enough person, but can this truly be the most representative work? I also felt some of the really interesting female, Muslim, American+ immigrant/refugee poets are noticeably absent from the collection. Hopefully some of the voices from volumes like Halal If You Hear Me: The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3 will surface by 2020. My favorites included: Six Obits by Victoria Chang (nice to have them as a set as they are sprinkled around various poetry publications otherwise) I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party by Chen Chen (listen to the poet read it on SoundCloud, about the eternal coming out that happens in resistant families - I loved his first collection and look forward to the next!) Drank a Lot by Leonard Cohen (read it on the New Yorker) Virgil, Hey by Camille Guthrie (read this poem of motherhood on New Republic) The Undressing by Li-Young Lee (the most brainy sensual poem in existence, which I originally read in The Undressing: Poems but the individual poem can also be read at The American Poetry Review) A Brief History of the Future Apocalypse by Rebecca Lindenberg The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady & The Dead & The Truth by Morgan Parker (also in her collection Magical Negro, which everyone should read, you won't be sorry, but okay, you can also read it at Harper's Magazine) Partly True Poem Reflected in a Mirror by Ocean Vuong (available on Poetry London, also read his novel - On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous) I had an early copy of this from the publisher through NetGalley. It is not available until September 10, 2019, but I couldn't wait!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Kiernan

    There are many reasons to read an annual collection like this. Foremost is probably the desire to read some great poems. Another is to see what condition contemporary poetry is in. A third is to discover new voices. And a fourth is to see what is on the minds of poets today. This year's collection scores highly in all four areas. There were many good and a few astonishingly brilliant poems in this book. I ordered two books by people I had never heard of before. Jane Shore's poem "Who Knows One", There are many reasons to read an annual collection like this. Foremost is probably the desire to read some great poems. Another is to see what condition contemporary poetry is in. A third is to discover new voices. And a fourth is to see what is on the minds of poets today. This year's collection scores highly in all four areas. There were many good and a few astonishingly brilliant poems in this book. I ordered two books by people I had never heard of before. Jane Shore's poem "Who Knows One", as just one example, succeeds on so many levels, even after multiple re-readings I cannot tell you how she does it. I don't think this collection accurately reflects the condition of contemporary poetry, which I consider a good thing. Too much new poetry is opaque if not incomprehensible, in some strange language intended to please some odd reader who I do not believe actually exists outside of the most precious academies and polemics. Thank goodness, the poems in this collection are readable, comprehensible, and unafraid to be about something. It is refreshing. I did hear new voices, some of which were too overtly political for me (poems and speeches and op-eds are not the same thing), but many of whom were engaging and interesting and about things I didn't know or hadn't considered. The range of this book -- in styles and in authors -- is immense (this maybe its greatest strength). And lastly, I was gratified to read that these poets are concerned about everything from the most personal interior landscapes to the broadest of civic and public questions, that poets were not afraid to write about God nor about their own hearts, that the struggle to understand persists and that these poems contribute to understanding. This year's collection, edited by Major Jackson, is worth picking up. If you are interested in work by living poets, it will lead you to more and better work.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Funny, of course, a collection of poetry will include all of the topics I listed as "shelves." These are the very stuff of poetry. I'll list some of my favorite poets and poems on my first trip through this "Best of" collection, so that I can come back to them. "Phase One" by Dilruba Ahmed a poem about forgiveness, the poet's forgiveness, not of herself, I think, but of another...although who the other might be is only implied. The poem ends" for treating your mother with contempt when she deserv Funny, of course, a collection of poetry will include all of the topics I listed as "shelves." These are the very stuff of poetry. I'll list some of my favorite poets and poems on my first trip through this "Best of" collection, so that I can come back to them. "Phase One" by Dilruba Ahmed a poem about forgiveness, the poet's forgiveness, not of herself, I think, but of another...although who the other might be is only implied. The poem ends" for treating your mother with contempt when she deserved compassion. I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. for growing a capacity for love that is great but matched only, perhaps, by your loneliness, for being unable to forgive yourself first so you could then forgive others and at last find a way to become the love that you want in this world. "America Will Be" by Joshua Bennett is a song for his father and which he writes, "is a son for the myriad who are unheralded and nonetheless loved beyond measure." "Six Obits" a brilliant series of poems on the death of parts of the self: friendships, optimism, affection...for example "Drank a Lot" by Leonard Cohen "Ledger" by Jane Hirshfield "Sunflowers" by James Hoch about Van Gogh and his painting ,and the poet's son, and Van Gogh's pain and his son's questions and his brother's war which continues to find its way inside him. "Once anthing is inside you, you can't help but feel complicit. "Cannibal Woman" by Ada Limon is about a woman's anger and the poet's empathy for the woman and also for those hurt by the woman's anger. "Fannie Lou Hamer" by Kamilah Aisha Moon a poem about a teacher and a student, and the teacher's moment of deep hurt, when she encounters the student's racism. "You Are Your Own State Department" by Naomi Shihab Nye. Nye's concerns are always international and this poem illustrates that with specificity and heartbreak. "Rasputin Aria" juxtposes Rasputin and Trump in horrific detail. It ends: "--tis of thee I think/ when I think of my country rendering/ and being rendered, when I think of our body/ politic its head of wrath/ with an orange flame for hair." "The Greatest Personal Privation" by Tracy K. Smith A letter from a slave owner about losing her slaves...the poem gives voice to the sisters and their losses: one after another, after another. "Duty" by Natasha Trethewey A Father's story. "Hive" by Kevin Young Hive The honey bees' exile is almost complete. You can carry them from hive to hive, the child thought & that is what he tried, walking with them thronging between his pressed palms. Let him be right. Let the gods look away as always. Let this boy who carries the entire actual, whirring world in his calm unwashed hands, barely walking, bear us all there buzzing, unstung.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tom Scott

    Poetry is hit or miss with me and it often is more about the moment I’m reading a poem than about the poem itself. Some of the poems I starred as being ones I liked I re-read and wondered why I liked them. It’s mystifying. One I did like though, "Four Marys" by Paisley Rekda, I still liked when I re-read it. Which is promising since the 2020 edition is edited by her. Onward! Poetry is hit or miss with me and it often is more about the moment I’m reading a poem than about the poem itself. Some of the poems I starred as being ones I liked I re-read and wondered why I liked them. It’s mystifying. One I did like though, "Four Marys" by Paisley Rekda, I still liked when I re-read it. Which is promising since the 2020 edition is edited by her. Onward!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gaetano Venezia

    I read the 2017 installation a few years ago and recently got the 2019 installation because I realized I got a lot out of the collection. This type of collection is a safer way to engage with poetry than author-specific collections, many of which have been disappointing compared to the first few poems I encountered from the authors. Usually I appreciate the forewords in these "Best of..." type collections, but I found this year’s to be underwhelming: one a limp screed against political correctne I read the 2017 installation a few years ago and recently got the 2019 installation because I realized I got a lot out of the collection. This type of collection is a safer way to engage with poetry than author-specific collections, many of which have been disappointing compared to the first few poems I encountered from the authors. Usually I appreciate the forewords in these "Best of..." type collections, but I found this year’s to be underwhelming: one a limp screed against political correctness (as none of the works really push the boundaries of political correctness), the other a memoiristic reflection on high school and influential poets. While there are plenty of poems here that don't affect me much, several enthralled me in a way I haven’t felt in years. Here are some favorite quotes to give the tenor of what I liked: Sumita Chakraborty, "Essay on Joy" Some years ago, dozens of grackles fell dead from the sky in Boston, the cause unknown. And so I think: I detest grackles. I rejoice. If asked, I would have explained the cause: somewhere in a level of atmosphere for which humans hold no keys lived a green-shining carrion crow. As her name indicates, she ate dead bodies. But nothing died there, ever; and so, she was hungry. She was kept company by this lack. … She ate some, and so she finally grew in size, and hated that, too. She who imagines what she hates is destroyed will rejoice. She opened a hole in the bottom of the atmosphere. Her kills fell. Victoria Chang, “Obits” Friendships—died June 24, 2009, once beloved but not consistently beloved. The mirror won the battle. I am now imprisoned in the mirror. All my selves spread out like a deck of cards. … An image is a kind of distance. An image of me sits down. Depression is a glove over the heart. Depression is an image of a glove over the image of a heart. Leonard Cohen, “Drank a Lot” i drank a lot. i lost my job. i lived like nothing mattered. then you stopped, and came across my little bridge of fallen answers. … your remedies beneath my hand your fingers in my hair the kisses on our lips began that ended everywhere. Joanne Dominique Dwyer, “Decline in the Adoration of Jack-in-the-Pulpits” Cell phones are like bird coffins in our hands No rain or sun on our skin, only the hum and haloes of screens swaddling us Juan Felipe Herrera, “Roll Under the Waves” the knife-shaped rivers and the face of my mother Luz and water running next to the animals still thrashing choking their low burnt violin muffled screams in rings of roses across the mountains Bob Holman, "All Praise Cecil Taylor” Them laugh them cry them fingers flip wise Troll the riverbed dead not dead not dead Once after the concert you told me it was not after the concert This is the concert is just what you said Garret Hongo, "The Bathers, Cassis" [I’m] gazing at the bathers as they take turns diving off the limestone promontory below and to my left, lazily frog-kicking through the cerulean waters of Port-de-Cassis. Their bodies are pale as salamanders as they scoot through the zaffre and viridian. Li-Young Lee, “The Undressing” Bodies have circled bodies from the beginning, she says, but the voices of lovers are Creation’s most recent flowers, mere buds of fire nodding on their stalks. Rebecca Lindenberg “A Brief History of the Future Apocaplypse” And I was not afraid, but should have been the first time love fell in me like snow. How could i know it would inter us both, so much volcanic ash— how could I not? The world must end and I think it will keep ending

  6. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I was hoping 2018's lackluster Best American Poetry was just a blip in the radar, but I found myself not enjoying BAP 2019 much, either. Major Jackson's intro was interesting—many people find poetry confusing, but poetry can be meaningful and challenging without being "precious" or obfuscated. I'm a progressive person but I think BAP has become too much about diversity picks and liberal beliefs (I've noticed the past several installments have authors mentioning some varation of "orange man bad" I was hoping 2018's lackluster Best American Poetry was just a blip in the radar, but I found myself not enjoying BAP 2019 much, either. Major Jackson's intro was interesting—many people find poetry confusing, but poetry can be meaningful and challenging without being "precious" or obfuscated. I'm a progressive person but I think BAP has become too much about diversity picks and liberal beliefs (I've noticed the past several installments have authors mentioning some varation of "orange man bad" in their notes). There's a part of me that knows artists respond to the zeitgeist, but often I feel like poets create poems that focus on political ideas while technical skill falls by the wayside. In BAP 2019 you'll find a poem called #MeToo (which repeats "#MeToo" 25 times in a three stanza prose poem; I understand the intent of the repetition but it made me more apathetic than inflamed) next to a poem called "The Women's March" (a boring free verse poem with dull imagery)—this pretty much sums up exactly what I don't like about BAP. And it always seems like the editor searches for a 12-page long poem to test the reader's patience (in this case, Li-Young Lee's "The Undressing"). There are few poems in this edition that seemed unique or technically impressive. Contributor's notes are completely soulless with the exception of Kate Daniels, Sharon Olds, and Willie Perdomo. Poems that I liked: "Central Park" by Catherine Barnett, (parts of) "Six Obits" by Victoria Chang, "Like a Cat" by Laura Cronk, "Decline in the Adoration of Jack-in-the-Pulpits" by Joanne Dominique Dwyer, "We May No Longer Consider the End" by Ruth Ellen Kocher, "Cannibal Woman" by Ada Limón, "Hair" by Clarence Major, "Encore" by Alan Shapiro, "Harm's Way" by A.E. Stallings, "Partly True Poem Reflected in a Mirror" by Ocean Vuong. =10/75 (13.3%) poems that I liked.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    It's hard to review poetry I suppose. It seems even more subjective than prose, and it can certainly be more abstract, loose, and open for interpretation. Nonetheless, some poems may strike a chord, and some may not. For me, this was a decent collection. Some poems, as Major Jackson emphasizes in his flowery, long-winded, but thoughtful introduction (which I will soon excerpt), do indeed embody that complexity and difficulty, the shape and contours of our deep humanity and aloneness, the words t It's hard to review poetry I suppose. It seems even more subjective than prose, and it can certainly be more abstract, loose, and open for interpretation. Nonetheless, some poems may strike a chord, and some may not. For me, this was a decent collection. Some poems, as Major Jackson emphasizes in his flowery, long-winded, but thoughtful introduction (which I will soon excerpt), do indeed embody that complexity and difficulty, the shape and contours of our deep humanity and aloneness, the words that give expression to what we feel or did not know we felt.(xxiv) The following poems in this collection sang to me somehow (18 of the 75 on offer): 1) 'Update on Werewolves' -- Margaret Atwood (Page 5) * Feminist werewolves. A dark consequence of the women's movement. A critique of trans people? Nonsense? It sticks with me. Long-legged women sprint through ravines / in furry warmups, a pack of kinky / models in sado-French Vogue getups / and airbrushed short-term memories, / bent on no-penalties rampage. 2) 'America Will Be' -- Joshua Bennett (Page 9) * A stimulating piece from the perspective of a young black man regarding his father and all he and his generation have been through. 3) 'Afternoons at the Lake' -- Fleda Brown (Page 11) * I would rather be trapped in an attic with rats than play Monopoly... Yeah. F#ck Monopoly. 4) 'I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party' -- Chen Chen (Page 22) * About a son inviting his parents to a dinner party with his boyfriend. He compares the situation to 'Home Alone'. Funny. 5) 'Like a Cat' -- Laura Cronk (28) * A lovely, cute little poem about cats and dogs and couples. Something I've oft thought about. You want a dog / but you are like a cat, / though you hate cats, / which is a very catlike / position. 6) 'Canzone in Blue, the Bluer' -- Vievee Francis (44) * Intense and complex. There wasn't music as much as there was / terror so the music became as much a / part of the terror as the terror it- / self with the swell of the arpeggio building and / breaking, building and breaking, upon the shores / of you. 7) 'Virgil, Hey' -- Camille Guthrie (49) * A mother complains about her life, her children. Ah me! I find myself middle-aged divorced lost / In the forest dark of my failures mortgage & slack breasts / It's hard to admit nobody wants to do me anymore / Not even Virgil will lead me down to his basement rental 8) 'Roll Under the Waves' -- Juan Felipe Herrera (58) * An intense poem on American immigration 9) 'Stranger by Night' -- Edward Hirsch (59) * A fairly simple poem about losing one's peripheral vision 10) 'The Undressing' -- Li-Young Lee (83) * A long poem telling a story about a foolish man and a goddess with some nice bits. Think, she says, of the seabirds / we watched at dawn / wheeling between that double blue / above and below them. // Defined by the gravity they defy, / they're the radiant shadows of what they resist, / and their turns and arcs in air / that will never remember them / are smiles on the face of the upper abyss. Death's bias, the slope / of our lives' every minute. 11) 'Cannibal Woman' -- Ada Limon (98) * Nice lines. There's nothing but this sailboat inside me, slowly trying / to catch a wind, maybe there's an old man on it, maybe a small child, // all I know is they'd like to go somewhere. They'd like to see the sail // straighten, go tense, and take them someplace. But instead they wait, / a little tender wave comes and leaves them / right where they were all along. I liked this part too. The fire. I imagined how it burned her mouth, / her skin, and how she tried to stand but couldn't, how it almost felt / good to her -- as if something was finally meeting her desire with desire. 12) 'A Brief History of the Future Apocalypse' -- Rebecca Lindenberg (100) * Nice, dark lines on love. ...war is a trapdoor // sprung open in the earth that a whole / generation falls through, love ends, // if no one errs, in death. When / my love died, I remember thinking// this happens to people every day, / just -- today, it's our world // crashing like an unmanned plane / into the jungle of all I've ever // had to feel, or imagine knowing. / It feels terrible to feel terrible / and so we let ourselves start to forget. 13) 'Bio from a Parallel World' -- Jeffrey McDaniel (113) * Neat, witty, fun. His smile a wobbly / merry-go-round that he hopes you will get on. ...then he stomps out / of the bathroom and finds a pool of bourbon // hovering near his stool. Girls he knew in college / lounge in bathing suits. He yanks off his t-shirt, // struts out onto the diving board and cannonballs / into his future, which smells just like his past. 14) 'On Confessionalism' -- John Murillo (130) * A rough teen violence poem 15) 'Encore' -- Alan Shapiro (163) * Wow. Cuts right to the core as the son of a mother. A son takes care of his dying mother and speaks of overwhelming, inescapable regret that produces the cold, lone, deadness only losing a mother can. I cried. The author notes, surely autobiographically, that the poem is about the limits of catharsis. No matter how much one writes about some forms of trauma, the trauma remains. (217) 16) 'Duty' -- Natasha Trethewey (174) * A father's duty, his daughter. 17) 'Hive' -- Kevin Young (180) * Brief and beautiful. Oops, I almost forgot, 18) 'Drank a Lot' -- Leonard Cohen (25) * It's Leonard Cohen. Not his best, but pretty sexy stuff. A portion of the introduction, as promised: I sought poems... that overpowered the indifference we exhibit toward each other, which, if unchecked, may become one of the great horrors of living in the twenty-first century. ... What I am trying to say is that we are the forest, to take up my friend's metaphor: inscrutable, trodden, and, yes, beautiful. What we seek in poetry is ourselves beyond the inarticulateness, silence, and immeasurable mystery that define human existence. Poems work to free us of this tyranny. We are all aware of how difficult it is to absorb and embrace each other's unfathomable natures, let alone our idiosyncratic feelings and thoughts, which, when encountered in a poem, can make the uninitiated feel ruthlessly uncomfortable, to the point of bristling.(xxiv) Great lines here. I love how poetry, like music, as Jackson notes, can cut through the silence, and attempt to explore the boundaries of us. It is another form of language, touching on the otherwise untouchable. And it is also true that poems can frustrate a reader -- particularly those without experience, or patience. Some poems are very difficult to decipher, but upon finally 'solving' them, they become a tiny light of joy in our lives. Some poems may forever remain inscrutable, and that might be OK too. For me, the best poems are those in which the author avoids concealment and obfuscation, and the truth of that person, eccentric, vulnerable, and brilliant, bears itself out in a sound heretofore unheard. The best poems evince such authenticity in language, form, thought, and emotion that leave us breathless, with the very air around us somehow changed.(xxv) You see, I would argue that some of the poems here retain some elements of concealment and/or obfuscation, and that mystery can also make for tantalizing poetry, and prose (as Jackson himself acknowledges later on, during an interesting discussion on poetry in the classroom: We feel compelled to reach irritably after fact and reason rather than to live and exist in the uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts, as John Keats would have us do. Poems are works of art, not necessarily meaning-making machines meant to be reverse-engineered, xxxi) -- but otherwise I agree and applaud. Again: Interesting and thoughtful introduction with some caveats, some very special poems, but only 18 of the 75 presented here were all that special to me personally. 3.4 Stars

  8. 4 out of 5

    James

    This year's collection is a decidedly mixed bag with some stellar moments amidst a lot of anger over the political climate. A lot of familiar names from the contemporary poetry world. [I received an advanced reader's copy through Netgalley.] This year's collection is a decidedly mixed bag with some stellar moments amidst a lot of anger over the political climate. A lot of familiar names from the contemporary poetry world. [I received an advanced reader's copy through Netgalley.]

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bea

    Notes on my favorite poems of the collection: "Phase One" by Dilruba Ahmed (pgs. 1-3). Forgiveness. The enjambment & repetition lending itself to layered meanings. "For growing / a capacity for love that is great / but matched only, perhaps, / by your loneliness" (lines 49-52). "America Will Be" by Joshua Bennett (pgs. 9-10). Hard-hitting. Elicited a deep, visceral emotional response. The lack of punctuation + enjambment and resulting the thematic implications. Lines like "between us. He is 68 yea Notes on my favorite poems of the collection: "Phase One" by Dilruba Ahmed (pgs. 1-3). Forgiveness. The enjambment & repetition lending itself to layered meanings. "For growing / a capacity for love that is great / but matched only, perhaps, / by your loneliness" (lines 49-52). "America Will Be" by Joshua Bennett (pgs. 9-10). Hard-hitting. Elicited a deep, visceral emotional response. The lack of punctuation + enjambment and resulting the thematic implications. Lines like "between us. He is 68 years old. He was born in the throat" (line 5), "Over breakfast, I ask him to tell me the hardest thing / about going to school back then, expecting some history / I already have memorized" (lines 8-10), "Now, I hear / the word America & think of my father's loneliness" (lines 13-14), "He looks / at me like the promise of another cosmos and I never / know what to tell him" (lines 41-43).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    The 2019 edition of The Best American Poetry begins with an impassioned introduction by David Lehman on political correctness in today's society. Major Jackson is the guest editor this year and poses the theme of artistic dignity vs street cred. With both of the introductions, I was expecting the poetry to follow suit. The poetry, however, doesn't seem to have the punch I was expecting from the introductions. Although very modern in form and seemingly less conservative, although not less controv The 2019 edition of The Best American Poetry begins with an impassioned introduction by David Lehman on political correctness in today's society. Major Jackson is the guest editor this year and poses the theme of artistic dignity vs street cred. With both of the introductions, I was expecting the poetry to follow suit. The poetry, however, doesn't seem to have the punch I was expecting from the introductions. Although very modern in form and seemingly less conservative, although not less controversial, then past editions, this does not seem to be a "best of" collection. Rather than the more themed collections of past years, this year's edition seems to cover a wide spectrum, like a survey. It could be the "street cred" of this edition that has left me, for the first time, feeling slightly disappointed. Maybe like music readers develop an ear for only certain types of poetry. Perhaps, it is just me getting old and clinging to the more traditional type of poetry rather than embracing the new. A few poems did stand out from the many; most notably Deborah Landau's "Soft Targets."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wes B

    When you get right down to it, the poetry we enjoy -- the poetry that speaks to us -- is different for everyone. This year's BAP demonstrates just how true this is. With this in mind, I hereby express my deepest condolences for sticking this book with a devastating two-star rating. Like I said, it's a matter of taste. And I'm not so finicky as to not see the value in these poems. In fact, Alan Shapiro's "Encore" damn near brought me to tears. There were other poems that I thought were good, in t When you get right down to it, the poetry we enjoy -- the poetry that speaks to us -- is different for everyone. This year's BAP demonstrates just how true this is. With this in mind, I hereby express my deepest condolences for sticking this book with a devastating two-star rating. Like I said, it's a matter of taste. And I'm not so finicky as to not see the value in these poems. In fact, Alan Shapiro's "Encore" damn near brought me to tears. There were other poems that I thought were good, in technical terms, but for some mysterious reason (probably some defect in myself), they did not speak to me. Other poems, I'll admit, made me roll my eyes because they were so thoroughly, helplessly, needlessly -- ready for it? -- poetic. A strange criticism, to be sure, but it's the best way I can describe it. I don't profess to know a great deal about contemporary poetry, and I'm writing this review, more than anything, to remind myself why I gave this such a low rating.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen K.

    This is a marvelous contemporary collection of poems written by a wide range of American poets. Varieties of form and theme and a broad sampling of diverse literary traditions energize this collection. Some old favorites like Juan Felipe Herrera, Natasha Trethewey, and Jane Hirshfield are represented along with lesser-known poets. Images of youth, grief, extinction, nature, borders, spirit, and history create a collage of the American cultural and creative melting pot. This anthology makes an id This is a marvelous contemporary collection of poems written by a wide range of American poets. Varieties of form and theme and a broad sampling of diverse literary traditions energize this collection. Some old favorites like Juan Felipe Herrera, Natasha Trethewey, and Jane Hirshfield are represented along with lesser-known poets. Images of youth, grief, extinction, nature, borders, spirit, and history create a collage of the American cultural and creative melting pot. This anthology makes an ideal teaching tool for poetry workshops, as well as a go-to resource for those moments when simply reading a poem can elevate mind and spirit. A “Contributors Notes and Comments” section and short bios add valuable texture and context to the poems. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brittney

    Best american poetry pulls different poems from many different authors' work. Because of this, there are many different styles of poetry. Unfortunately, I only enjoyed a few of the poems in this collection. Most of them were harder to understand. This should have been expected because most of these poems are from a completely different era of poetry. It was pretty hard to find the meaning behind each poem because the line breaks were so scattered or because the language was almost shakespearean Best american poetry pulls different poems from many different authors' work. Because of this, there are many different styles of poetry. Unfortunately, I only enjoyed a few of the poems in this collection. Most of them were harder to understand. This should have been expected because most of these poems are from a completely different era of poetry. It was pretty hard to find the meaning behind each poem because the line breaks were so scattered or because the language was almost shakespearean in a way. It was almost as if I was not reading in english. It showed some levels of every genre. Although it was difficult to read, I do like the level of Allusion some authors used in the collection. More specifically, the poem “Virgil, Hey” which used aspects of Dante's Inferno and the different circles of Hell.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Every year, I try to read a poem a day, and a collection like this one is very good for that. Though there are definitely less than 365 poems in this book (366 since I started to read it in 2020), I didn't follow my every day goal very well. I never know how to catalog it when I've read it over two years, but I guess since I finished it in 2021, it'll go here. I enjoyed this collection a lot. I love seeing the variety of tones, styles, and types of poems that have been written from the skilled p Every year, I try to read a poem a day, and a collection like this one is very good for that. Though there are definitely less than 365 poems in this book (366 since I started to read it in 2020), I didn't follow my every day goal very well. I never know how to catalog it when I've read it over two years, but I guess since I finished it in 2021, it'll go here. I enjoyed this collection a lot. I love seeing the variety of tones, styles, and types of poems that have been written from the skilled poets of America. Since it's hard to review something like this, I'll simply list my favorite poems from the collection: "Strange by Night," Edward Hirsch "The S in 'I Loves You, Porgy,'" Nabila Lovelace "Just Rollin' Along," Ishmael Reed "Harm's Way," A.E. Stallings "Hive," Kevin Young

  15. 5 out of 5

    Liz Wahba • Elyse Welles

    Personally, I usually find that poetry books have 10-25% memorable, coherent poems, and that the other 90-75% are too personal to be clear, and/or too dramatic and self-praising to be enjoyable. This book was more 50-50 in its choices of poems, and that was enjoyable. There were five or six poems I will read again and keep in mind for my English classes (I teach high school) and my own reflection: Joshua Bennett. “America Will Be” Gabriela Garcia. “Guantanamera” Camille Guthrie. “Virgil, Hey” Majo Personally, I usually find that poetry books have 10-25% memorable, coherent poems, and that the other 90-75% are too personal to be clear, and/or too dramatic and self-praising to be enjoyable. This book was more 50-50 in its choices of poems, and that was enjoyable. There were five or six poems I will read again and keep in mind for my English classes (I teach high school) and my own reflection: Joshua Bennett. “America Will Be” Gabriela Garcia. “Guantanamera” Camille Guthrie. “Virgil, Hey” Major Jackson. “In Memory of Derek Alton Walcott” Naomi Shihab Nye. “You are Your Own State Department” Nicole Santalucia. “#MeToo” Alan Shapiro. “Encore” I highly recommend checking out the above poems. If you have the volume they are found there in the above order, alphabetically.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adnan

    What a stupid and pathetic excuse of scholarly writing this whole volume was. I do not know if Lehman is forced to choose Major Jackson, whose collection is so horrible (strangely, the only poem I liked was his, and what's more strange is that he added his poem to the collection). Please avoid The Best American Poetry series. I have so far read 2015,16,17,18,19,21, and only 2016 is worth reading for a handful of poems. Americans are BAD at poetry, and the people choosing the poems are either so b What a stupid and pathetic excuse of scholarly writing this whole volume was. I do not know if Lehman is forced to choose Major Jackson, whose collection is so horrible (strangely, the only poem I liked was his, and what's more strange is that he added his poem to the collection). Please avoid The Best American Poetry series. I have so far read 2015,16,17,18,19,21, and only 2016 is worth reading for a handful of poems. Americans are BAD at poetry, and the people choosing the poems are either so bad at choosing those poems, or they see something that I cannot see. I am sad to say that I really am not let down since I expected nothing but mediocre writing here, and that is exactly what I got.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa M.

    I read one poem a day from this collection in 2019, and then I reread them/author's commentary at the same time. The length I spent with this book makes it difficult to rate; I'm only recently becoming more familiar with contemporary poetry, so it is also difficult for me to comment on the inclusions of the book. certainly didn't enjoy all of these poems and got the feeling many were included not for the quality of the work but for the fact that they are well known names, I enjoyed it overall. J I read one poem a day from this collection in 2019, and then I reread them/author's commentary at the same time. The length I spent with this book makes it difficult to rate; I'm only recently becoming more familiar with contemporary poetry, so it is also difficult for me to comment on the inclusions of the book. certainly didn't enjoy all of these poems and got the feeling many were included not for the quality of the work but for the fact that they are well known names, I enjoyed it overall. Juan Felipe Herrera's "Under the Waves" was my favorite piece by far. I plan to continue reading books this way in the upcoming years.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Varrick Nunez

    I picked this up because I don't read enough poetry, frankly. I wanted a "sampler" to get a feel for what poetry is like these days. Although this was edited amid a confusing time in America, where practicalities and political ideas seemed to be pushing back against arts and sciences, against what's better for most, there really is a diversity of writers and work presented here. One I really liked was the playful and arch "Who Knows One" by Jane Shore that originally ran in the New Yorker, reall I picked this up because I don't read enough poetry, frankly. I wanted a "sampler" to get a feel for what poetry is like these days. Although this was edited amid a confusing time in America, where practicalities and political ideas seemed to be pushing back against arts and sciences, against what's better for most, there really is a diversity of writers and work presented here. One I really liked was the playful and arch "Who Knows One" by Jane Shore that originally ran in the New Yorker, really clever. Some, more than I liked, seemed bleak, but I suppose it's a sign of the times, and some things are true, and some things need said. So, poetry speaks.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lynn DiFerdinando

    Wild to me that I’ve read enough poetry in the last 2 years that I actually recognized some of the poets in this collection. Some gems in here but skimmed most of them Faves from new-to-me poets: A Brief History Of A Future Apocalypse (Rebecca Lindenberg; “A heart sorrow-whipped and cowering will still nose its rib cage to be petted.”), Hive (Kevin Young), Four Marys (Paisley Rekdal), Central Park (Catherine Barnett), Skin-Light (Natalie Diaz), Afternoons at the Lake (Fleda Brown), Dark and Lonel Wild to me that I’ve read enough poetry in the last 2 years that I actually recognized some of the poets in this collection. Some gems in here but skimmed most of them Faves from new-to-me poets: A Brief History Of A Future Apocalypse (Rebecca Lindenberg; “A heart sorrow-whipped and cowering will still nose its rib cage to be petted.”), Hive (Kevin Young), Four Marys (Paisley Rekdal), Central Park (Catherine Barnett), Skin-Light (Natalie Diaz), Afternoons at the Lake (Fleda Brown), Dark and Lonely After Take-Off (A Future) (Yona Harvey) Faves from known poets: from “Last Will and Testament” (Ilya Kaminsky), I Invite My Parents To A Dinner Party (Chen Chen)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    As with any poetry collection, the poems in The Best American Poetry 2019 were hit or miss. There were, however, a great number of beautiful poems that vastly outweighed the not-as-beautiful ones, earning this collection a 4/5. Some of my favorite poems from this collection include: "I Now Pronounce You Dead" by Martín Espada, "On Confessionalism" by John Murillo and "The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady & The Dead & The Truth" by Morgan Parker, As with any poetry collection, the poems in The Best American Poetry 2019 were hit or miss. There were, however, a great number of beautiful poems that vastly outweighed the not-as-beautiful ones, earning this collection a 4/5. Some of my favorite poems from this collection include: "I Now Pronounce You Dead" by Martín Espada, "On Confessionalism" by John Murillo and "The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady & The Dead & The Truth" by Morgan Parker,

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carola

    Favorites: America Will Be by Joshua Bennett The Bathers, Cassis by Garret Hongo The Burning Bush by Didi Jackson In Memory of Derek Alton Walcott by Major Jackson Fannie Lou Hamer by Kamilah Aisha Moon On Confessionalism by John Murillo You Are Your Own State Department by Naomi Shahalo Nye Head Crack Head Crack by Willie Perdomo Encore by Alan Shapiro Who Knows One by Jane Shore Hive by Kevin Young

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I'm often looking to try to read more poetry, and usually pick up collections by individual authors, so I thought an anthology like this would be good exposure to a variety of poets. It didn't work for me - I found the introductions off-putting and few of the poems interesting. I did very much enjoy the Atwood poem! I'm often looking to try to read more poetry, and usually pick up collections by individual authors, so I thought an anthology like this would be good exposure to a variety of poets. It didn't work for me - I found the introductions off-putting and few of the poems interesting. I did very much enjoy the Atwood poem!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    This is the first collection I have read from this series and thought it included a good selection of poets from different backgrounds. In the biographical section on the contributors some poets give a little background on the genesis of his or her poem which was interesting. One reviewer said that other years in this series have been better so I'll go back and check out earlier editions. This is the first collection I have read from this series and thought it included a good selection of poets from different backgrounds. In the biographical section on the contributors some poets give a little background on the genesis of his or her poem which was interesting. One reviewer said that other years in this series have been better so I'll go back and check out earlier editions.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Manery

    I loved Ange Mlinko's gorgeous "Sleepwalking in Venice," the masterful use of discreet rhyme and stanza. I am less happy that editor Major Jackson chose to break precedent and include in this collection his own poem and one by his wife. One expects a certain amount of inclusion of friends and personal favorites, but I wish Mr. Jackson had drawn the line at self promotion. I loved Ange Mlinko's gorgeous "Sleepwalking in Venice," the masterful use of discreet rhyme and stanza. I am less happy that editor Major Jackson chose to break precedent and include in this collection his own poem and one by his wife. One expects a certain amount of inclusion of friends and personal favorites, but I wish Mr. Jackson had drawn the line at self promotion.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence Hall

    The prefatory essays by Major Jackson and David Lehman are brilliant. After that, there are some words scattered about prosetheatrically. "...I'm licking her armpits" - now that is unforgettable. The prefatory essays by Major Jackson and David Lehman are brilliant. After that, there are some words scattered about prosetheatrically. "...I'm licking her armpits" - now that is unforgettable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    The third straight collection in this poetry series that I have read. This book has better poems than in the 2018 collection, including one (’In Memory Derek Alton Walcott”) that was written by the guest editor, Major Jackson.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    3.5 stars. I always enjoy these annual collections for the chance to read from so many different poets. This volume had a bit more of a political undertone than the previous few, which I found refreshing and relevant.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Heather Bennett

    The Best American Poetry 2019 is a great collection of poems that were a delight to read. Most were well written and this would make a great gift.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Blair Emsick

    Lehman’s forward had me a lil miffed (calling the decision for radio stations to pull baby it’s cold outside from their playlists “nutty” you can guess the rest) .. everything else was great

  30. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    I'm only referring to the poetry. Lehman's intro was a mess. I'm only referring to the poetry. Lehman's intro was a mess.

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