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The Best American Poetry 2020

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The 2020 edition of contemporary American poetry returns, guest edited by Paisley Rekdal, the award-winning poet and author of Nightingale, proving that this is “a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). Since 1988, The Best American Poetry anthology series has been “one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American P The 2020 edition of contemporary American poetry returns, guest edited by Paisley Rekdal, the award-winning poet and author of Nightingale, proving that this is “a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). Since 1988, The Best American Poetry anthology series has been “one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American Poets). Each volume in the series presents some of the year’s most remarkable poems and poets. Now, the 2020 edition is guest edited by Utah’s Poet Laureate Paisely Rekdal, called “a poet of observation and history...[who] revels in detail but writes vast, moral poems that help us live in a world of contraries” by the Los Angeles Times. In The Best American Poetry 2020, she has selected a fascinating array of work that speaks eloquently to the “contraries” of our present moment in time.


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The 2020 edition of contemporary American poetry returns, guest edited by Paisley Rekdal, the award-winning poet and author of Nightingale, proving that this is “a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). Since 1988, The Best American Poetry anthology series has been “one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American P The 2020 edition of contemporary American poetry returns, guest edited by Paisley Rekdal, the award-winning poet and author of Nightingale, proving that this is “a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). Since 1988, The Best American Poetry anthology series has been “one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American Poets). Each volume in the series presents some of the year’s most remarkable poems and poets. Now, the 2020 edition is guest edited by Utah’s Poet Laureate Paisely Rekdal, called “a poet of observation and history...[who] revels in detail but writes vast, moral poems that help us live in a world of contraries” by the Los Angeles Times. In The Best American Poetry 2020, she has selected a fascinating array of work that speaks eloquently to the “contraries” of our present moment in time.

30 review for The Best American Poetry 2020

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Bayer

    Hmmm. Anthologies like this strike me as the main reason so many Americans say they don't like poetry. Can we please get to a place where our options aren't either self-absorbed, generic Instagram poetry or this? While I did enjoy a few of the poems, so many were the literary equivalent of the art display where someone paints something entirely with pieces of used condoms. Give me Margaret Atwood, Nikky Finney, Langston Hughes... poets who can say something artistically and beautifully, make you Hmmm. Anthologies like this strike me as the main reason so many Americans say they don't like poetry. Can we please get to a place where our options aren't either self-absorbed, generic Instagram poetry or this? While I did enjoy a few of the poems, so many were the literary equivalent of the art display where someone paints something entirely with pieces of used condoms. Give me Margaret Atwood, Nikky Finney, Langston Hughes... poets who can say something artistically and beautifully, make you feel, and not leave you feeling like you're either not smart enough or high enough to know what on earth the poet is saying. I love poetry but I couldn't finish this anthology, as reading most of the poems (which often run on for many pages) felt like the worst kind of college homework: intellectual calisthenics and drudgery. I remember reading the "best" poetry journals when I was an English lit major and young poet many years ago and lamenting that this was the sort of stuff that was favored. I'm discouraged that this many years later, this is still the stuff that the poetry elite fawn over. All that said, if you tend to like the Best American Poetry anthologies, this particular year is as good as any and there seems to be a good amount of diversity. I read a digital ARC of this book via Net Galley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    2021 reads, #79. This is the fourth of four poetry anthologies I've been reading over the last month, as part of my first-ever explorations this year into the world of formal poetry, and with each volume specifically chosen so that the four added together would give me the broadest overview of the poetry world as possible: first an anthology from Columbia University claiming to represent "the greatest poems of all time" (my review), compiled by aggregating the table of contents of 400 other acad 2021 reads, #79. This is the fourth of four poetry anthologies I've been reading over the last month, as part of my first-ever explorations this year into the world of formal poetry, and with each volume specifically chosen so that the four added together would give me the broadest overview of the poetry world as possible: first an anthology from Columbia University claiming to represent "the greatest poems of all time" (my review), compiled by aggregating the table of contents of 400 other academic poetry anthologies; the second, another anthology which claims to represent the best poems of all time (my review), only in this case chosen in the opposite direction, by soliciting the opinions of 18,000 random American citizens from all walks of life (compiled by Robert Pinsky in the late 1990s, as part of his duties as the US Poet Laureate under the Clinton administration); and then the third being essentially a claim of the best 20th century poetry of all time (my review), compiled by the beloved Poetry magazine in 2002 to celebrate the publication's 90th anniversary. Today's book is part of a series that's been published by Simon & Schuster once a year since the late 1980s, in which a high-profile guest editor is chosen each year (in this case, the award-winning University of Utah professor Paisley Rekdal), and then basically given free reign to pick whatever poems they want, as long as it was originally published in America somewhere within the last twelve months, making this by definition a skewed and opinionated look at the "best" poems of any given year, but that at least gives us a good overview of what the poetry world is up to at this exact moment in history, which was the primary reason I chose it. But alas, just like was the case with the Pinsky book (and for that matter, the main problem with the Poetry magazine anthology as well, although in that case I got so incensed by their glowing love of Nazi speechwriter and convicted war criminal Ezra Pound that I instead dedicated my entire review of that anthology to just that subject), I find myself just entirely and utterly rejecting the very concept of modern "free verse" poetry, finding it impossible to see such pieces as anything else but mediocre tiny short stories from subpar prose writers, who have arbitrarily cut their prose up into funny looking random lines and declared it a "poem" in order to add an unearned sense of profundity to what is, when all is said and done, crappy and lazy one-paragraph flash fiction in which nothing happens and no one cares. Unfortunately, if you consider the Pinsky and Poetry anthologies as being a sort of worrying history lesson, showing us the degradation and downfall of the poetry genre over the decades and centuries, from its exquisitely complex origins of required meters and rhyme schemes to its modern incarnation as "the place terrible writers go to die," then this 2020 anthology sadly shows us the end game of that history, as virtually every piece in this 200-page book is now one of these crappy stories with funny-looking lines that I mentioned, the poets of the 21st century now not even bothering anymore to try to hide it, but proudly displaying their laziness and their hackneyed gimmicks for all the world to adore (and by "all the world," I of course mean the tiny ring of all their elite little MFA buddies, the only people left in America who actually read contemporary poetry, about the most concrete sign I can think of that something horribly wrong started happening with this genre around 1904 or so, and that the genre has never recovered since). I mean, read it yourself if you don't believe me; but if you're anything like me and roughly 96 percent of the rest of the general population, you're going to walk away from this dreary, pointless tome shaking your head in disgust and anger, over the modern world's hijacking of what used to be a very vital, very pleasing form of literary output, to turn it into yet more mealy-mouthed crap for the ivory tower set. Buyer beware.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alarie

    There are some excellent poems in this anthology. Excellence is what I expect from a collection of the best. Unfortunately, poetry is highly subjective. I usually find these collections a disappointment, leaning to poetry I consider too dry, too esoteric, and often way too long. The one great exception for me was the 2017 edition, guest edited by Natasha Trethewey. That I gave 5 stars. My personal favorite poems in this collection: Victoria Chang: “Obit [Privacy–died]” Vieve Francis: “The Shore” Ra There are some excellent poems in this anthology. Excellence is what I expect from a collection of the best. Unfortunately, poetry is highly subjective. I usually find these collections a disappointment, leaning to poetry I consider too dry, too esoteric, and often way too long. The one great exception for me was the 2017 edition, guest edited by Natasha Trethewey. That I gave 5 stars. My personal favorite poems in this collection: Victoria Chang: “Obit [Privacy–died]” Vieve Francis: “The Shore” Rachel Eliza Griffiths: “Good Mother” Tony Hoagland: “Sunday at the Mall” Ilya Kaminsky: “In a Time of Peace” Steven Kleinman, “The Bear” Jennifer L. Knox, “The Gift” Hieu Minh Nguyen: “The Chasm” Sharon Olds: “Hyacinth Aria” Clare Rossini: “The Keeper Will Enter the Cage” Craig Morgan Teicher: “I Am a Father Now” Matthew Zapruder: “My Life”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Overall impressions: a narrow selection among magazines, Copper Nickel and Poetry dominant among them; a strong presence of writers of color, but other orthodoxies inform much of the work, the experimentation mild in character, characteristic of the academic/MFA bubble, the subject matter semi-confessional, the politics vaguely liberal in the vein of "human rights" discourse. I've never thought the Lehman anthology ever really represented "the best," being more the product of a mild cronyism, pe Overall impressions: a narrow selection among magazines, Copper Nickel and Poetry dominant among them; a strong presence of writers of color, but other orthodoxies inform much of the work, the experimentation mild in character, characteristic of the academic/MFA bubble, the subject matter semi-confessional, the politics vaguely liberal in the vein of "human rights" discourse. I've never thought the Lehman anthology ever really represented "the best," being more the product of a mild cronyism, perhaps inevitable in such a crowded and professionalized field; but also, in this instance, some fine work by Timothy Donnelly, Arthur Sze, Ariana Reines, posthumous Lucie Brock-Broido, among others. No better but no worse than most of these anthologies. At least the guest editor didn't publish herself and members of her immediate family.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    I can't say that this was my favorite collection of poems, but there are some good ones in here. Paisley Rekdal did an admirable job here, but I think we have pretty divergent tastes. I can't say that this was my favorite collection of poems, but there are some good ones in here. Paisley Rekdal did an admirable job here, but I think we have pretty divergent tastes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nora Smith

    a wholistic look at the state of the poetry genre! can't wait to read 2021 a wholistic look at the state of the poetry genre! can't wait to read 2021

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marley Fortin

    pretty meh. paisley rekdal’s preface was my favorite part of the whole book, which is not a good sign. i think the words “forgive me” appeared in at least three poems- lots of guilt and hand-wringing about contemporary politics. i get the sentiment, but i dunno, i’m just kind of over intellectual lefty new york people bemoaning the state of things. writing a poem about how guilty you feel doesn’t make you any less guilty. it doesn’t really make you sympathetic either. but there was still some goo pretty meh. paisley rekdal’s preface was my favorite part of the whole book, which is not a good sign. i think the words “forgive me” appeared in at least three poems- lots of guilt and hand-wringing about contemporary politics. i get the sentiment, but i dunno, i’m just kind of over intellectual lefty new york people bemoaning the state of things. writing a poem about how guilty you feel doesn’t make you any less guilty. it doesn’t really make you sympathetic either. but there was still some good stuff. i liked the angry poems (john murillo, “a refusal to mourn the deaths, by gunfire, of three men in brooklyn”), the funny lighthearted ones (tony hoagland, “sunday at the mall” and camille guthrie “during the middle ages”) and the deeply personal (rachel galvin, “little death” and rachel griffiths “good mother”). would recommend a read if you are bored this summer and want a brief overview of everything troubling the psyche of the american upper-class art circles

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ace Boggess

    A strong selection of poems in this year's edition. Guest Editor Paisley Rekdal learned much more toward toward the longer poems, making this edition more reminiscent of that from 2004. As such, I didn't connect with as many of the poems as I'd like. Unlike with that 2004 volume however, here I recognized the excellence of almost every piece, even those I didn't love by the end. It's a worthy edition to the series and quite fulfilling to read. Worth the money. A strong selection of poems in this year's edition. Guest Editor Paisley Rekdal learned much more toward toward the longer poems, making this edition more reminiscent of that from 2004. As such, I didn't connect with as many of the poems as I'd like. Unlike with that 2004 volume however, here I recognized the excellence of almost every piece, even those I didn't love by the end. It's a worthy edition to the series and quite fulfilling to read. Worth the money.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    About all I want to say about this book is that if this is the best American poetry offers, I'll be reading British poetry or older poetry from now on. Very few poems instilled a sense of calmness and peace. Few dealt with themes of beauty, peacefulness, the sea, flowers, birds, etc. Too much of the content was stressful, and to call some of it poetry stretches the definition. I received an advance review copy through Edelweiss. While the publisher appreciates reviews, they are not required. About all I want to say about this book is that if this is the best American poetry offers, I'll be reading British poetry or older poetry from now on. Very few poems instilled a sense of calmness and peace. Few dealt with themes of beauty, peacefulness, the sea, flowers, birds, etc. Too much of the content was stressful, and to call some of it poetry stretches the definition. I received an advance review copy through Edelweiss. While the publisher appreciates reviews, they are not required.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katie Karnehm-Esh

    I sometimes struggled to get into this volume of poetry because so many of the poems were so long. However, the payoff was that I read poems I often wouldn't read, and the poems I loved were particularly lovely. Susan Leslie Moore's "Night of the Living"; Sharon Olds's "Hyacinth Aria"; Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad's "Isfahan, 2010"; Robert Wrigley's "Machinery" and Matthew Zapruder's "My Life" were some favorites. I sometimes struggled to get into this volume of poetry because so many of the poems were so long. However, the payoff was that I read poems I often wouldn't read, and the poems I loved were particularly lovely. Susan Leslie Moore's "Night of the Living"; Sharon Olds's "Hyacinth Aria"; Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad's "Isfahan, 2010"; Robert Wrigley's "Machinery" and Matthew Zapruder's "My Life" were some favorites.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Rekdal likes the long poem. That's clear. My absolute favorites: Monica Youn "Study of Two Figures (Pasiphae/Sado)" Ilya Kaminsky "In a Time of Piece" Kevin Prufer "Archeology" Some other favorites: William Brewer "Orange" Victoria Chang "Obit [Privacy--died]" Timothy Donnelly "All Through the War" Rachel Eliza Griffiths "Good Mother" Donika Kelly "I Never Figured How to Get Free" Christopher Kempf "After" Jennifer L. Knox "The Gift" Sharon Olds "Hyacinth Aria" Carl Phillips "Something to Believe in" Clare Ro Rekdal likes the long poem. That's clear. My absolute favorites: Monica Youn "Study of Two Figures (Pasiphae/Sado)" Ilya Kaminsky "In a Time of Piece" Kevin Prufer "Archeology" Some other favorites: William Brewer "Orange" Victoria Chang "Obit [Privacy--died]" Timothy Donnelly "All Through the War" Rachel Eliza Griffiths "Good Mother" Donika Kelly "I Never Figured How to Get Free" Christopher Kempf "After" Jennifer L. Knox "The Gift" Sharon Olds "Hyacinth Aria" Carl Phillips "Something to Believe in" Clare Rossini "The Keeper Will Enter the Cage" James Tate "The Prayer" Matthew Thorburn "The Stag" Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad "Isfahan, 2010" John Yau "The President's Telegram"

  12. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    This year’s collection of poems just wasn’t as impactful or interesting as years past.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Any collection of poetry by different authors will of course mean that the individual poem will vary in their impact on the reader, especially with poetry being such a subjective experience. I’m always satisfied if half the selections in such a work move me in some way, by image, language, sound, etc. I’ve had mixed experience with the Best American Poetry series, but this year’s (2020) is one of the best I’ve read, with only a small handful of poems falling into the “didn’t care for” category. Any collection of poetry by different authors will of course mean that the individual poem will vary in their impact on the reader, especially with poetry being such a subjective experience. I’m always satisfied if half the selections in such a work move me in some way, by image, language, sound, etc. I’ve had mixed experience with the Best American Poetry series, but this year’s (2020) is one of the best I’ve read, with only a small handful of poems falling into the “didn’t care for” category. Really a stellar collection. My favorite may be the excerpt from Rick Barot’s The Galleons, a multi—stranded poem that moves back and forth in speakers and time, exploring his family’s immigration against a broader scale of historic imperialism and colonialism. The excerpt so captured me that immediately went out and bought the book after reading the excerpts closing lines: “a building like a tallness of heart a dream carried into waking my life breathing before it incredible and true.” Another favorite is “A Man Drops a Coat on the Sidewalk and Almost Falls into the Arms of Another”, where Reginald Dwayne Betts spins out a caught moment in time into a wonderful meditation. Painfully powerful is Ryan Black’s “Nothing Beats a Fair”, which begins with the speaker telling how his mother worked as a waitress at the 1964 World Fair and ends with a horrific moment of racism at a hockey game, when his “mother stepped back, then seemed to harden like the women in those stories, in D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, who were transformed because they would not give consent.” Even more powerful over its entire length is Julian Gewirtz’s “To X (Written on this Device You Made)”, a poem addressed to the “24-year-old migrant worker” noted in the epigraph from the Washington Post who “jumped out of a window of a dormitory run by his employer, Foxconn . . . that makes the majority of the world’s Apple iPhones.” The chorus throughout of “another net” going up (to catch the number of suicide attempts) is chilling, while the last line is an utter knockout blow. As noted, there were a few poems I didn’t much like, but the number was shockingly low. Generally, this collection had fewer of the poems I consider more word games than anything else, and many more that dealt ringing emotional blows as well as showing a deft hand at subtle rhymes, sound technique, and imagery. Highly recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Moranda

    Loved this collection. A lot of longer poems like people said but I didn’t mind. The poems touched on a lot of cultural, societal, political, and social issues in meaningful and interesting ways. Of course, I didn’t love every poem but that’s not quite the point of these collections regardless. I feel this was an adept overview of American poetry in 2020. It certainly covered what it was meant to cover. Notable Stand outs: All Through the War - Timothy Donnelly To X - Julian Gewirtz Sex - Christin Loved this collection. A lot of longer poems like people said but I didn’t mind. The poems touched on a lot of cultural, societal, political, and social issues in meaningful and interesting ways. Of course, I didn’t love every poem but that’s not quite the point of these collections regardless. I feel this was an adept overview of American poetry in 2020. It certainly covered what it was meant to cover. Notable Stand outs: All Through the War - Timothy Donnelly To X - Julian Gewirtz Sex - Christine Gosnay The Conversion of Paul - Jennifer Grotz During the Middle Ages - Camille Guthrie The Garden of Earthly Delights - Troy Jollimore In A Time of Peace - Ilya Kaminsky Recessional - Corey Van Landingham

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    I hate "best of" collections and idk why I continue to read them. They're way too subjective and I almost never agree with the choices made by the editors. 0/10 do not recommend. I skimmed the majority of the book. The only two poems I enjoyed were Rachel Eliza Griffiths' "Good Mother" and Kevin Prufer's "Archaeology". I hate "best of" collections and idk why I continue to read them. They're way too subjective and I almost never agree with the choices made by the editors. 0/10 do not recommend. I skimmed the majority of the book. The only two poems I enjoyed were Rachel Eliza Griffiths' "Good Mother" and Kevin Prufer's "Archaeology".

  16. 4 out of 5

    Trina

    I'm not a fan of the long poem, especially in digital format. It seemed like at least 85% of these meandered on and on and tried to be both epic and topical, but I just didn't have the patience to engage with this collection right now. I'm not a fan of the long poem, especially in digital format. It seemed like at least 85% of these meandered on and on and tried to be both epic and topical, but I just didn't have the patience to engage with this collection right now.

  17. 4 out of 5

    B.

    Overall, I would give this collection a B- average (technically an 81.7% avg.) as far as the quality of the poems contained. I know that attempting to quantify poetic effect/value is a ridiculous gesture, but I am simply a ridiculous person. Of course, this is purely based on my own tastes and will not necessarily reflect your average satisfaction rate. This had very few super high highs, so it's tempting to put this at a C+ level, but it still evens out to a decent collection. It is on the lower Overall, I would give this collection a B- average (technically an 81.7% avg.) as far as the quality of the poems contained. I know that attempting to quantify poetic effect/value is a ridiculous gesture, but I am simply a ridiculous person. Of course, this is purely based on my own tastes and will not necessarily reflect your average satisfaction rate. This had very few super high highs, so it's tempting to put this at a C+ level, but it still evens out to a decent collection. It is on the lower end of the BAPs of the past decade, but it still evens out. It is interesting to see poems that were probably released in the earlier parts of 2020. It seems like 2021 will inevitably reflect the seismic shifts in American history that the bulk of 2020 brought upon us. I am not sure if this will bode well for poetry or not, but there is only one way to find out! The following are my favorites from this collection: Masterpieces (3) "During the Middle Ages" by Camille Guthrie "In a Time of Peace" by Ilya Kaminsky "Machinery" by Robert Wrigley Masterful (10) "Customer Loyalty Program" by Brandon Amico "Obit" by Victoria Chang "Little Death" by Rachel Galvin "Sunday At the Mall" by Tony Hoagland "I Never Figured How to Get Free" by Donika Kelly "The Punishment of One Is the Love Song of Another" by Jennifer Militello "Chasm" by Hieu Minh Nguyen "Something to Believe In" by Carl Phillips "Sprang" by Arthur Sze "Samson, 1674" by Rosanna Warren Masters Candidates (14) "Tender" by Lucie Brock-Broido "In Line to Vote on Our Future Climate" by Meg Day "All Through the War" by Timothy Donnelly "To X" by Julian Gewirtz "Birches Are the Gods' Favorite Tree" by Regan Good "Fifteen" by Kimberly Johnson "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Troy Jollimore "Letter to the Person Who, During the Q&A Session..." by Matthew Olzmann "At Night" by Stanley Plumly "Archaeology" by Kevin Prufer "Dysphonia" by Jon William Stout "I Am a Father Now" by C.M. Teicher "The Stag" by Matthew Thorburn "My Life" by Matthew Zapruder Overall, I would absolutely to highly recommend approx. 36% of the poems contained in this volume.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa M.

    After I learned about the flagrant nepotism in last year's edition, I was disappointed, but not shocked. I have not read a lot of Rekdal's work but I have enjoyed what I read and looked forward to reading the anthology she curated. I have discovered that while I may enjoy a writer, our tastes may not align. While last year's collection was certainly navel-gazing, this doesn't have as much of that quality; but, I believe I enjoyed more of the poems in last year's collection. Few in this book were After I learned about the flagrant nepotism in last year's edition, I was disappointed, but not shocked. I have not read a lot of Rekdal's work but I have enjoyed what I read and looked forward to reading the anthology she curated. I have discovered that while I may enjoy a writer, our tastes may not align. While last year's collection was certainly navel-gazing, this doesn't have as much of that quality; but, I believe I enjoyed more of the poems in last year's collection. Few in this book were really exciting for me. When I ended the collection last year I could easily remember some of my favorites. I don't necessarily feel the same way here. Few of these poems truly stimulated me and I failed to see the appeal of many of them. After reading these collections two years in a row I have found that my tastes don't align with them and I will no longer expect them too. They are often full of poems of the status quo with a few experimental ones thrown in to make the editor/readers feel like the collection is cutting edge. It's not. The contemporary literature scene has so much more to offer than this. So why read these? It's a great way to learn about what is currently popular at the academic level, who is currently successful, and which markets lead to the most commercial success. Beyond that surface information, it allows you to read new (sometimes) authors and think about why you did or didn't like a poem. It's also really rare to read an accompanying piece in which the author shares their thoughts about the poem. I don't necessarily like these books but it served its purpose and I'll keep reading them.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Collections like this are wonderful mix of voices and styles. For me, they lead to a mixed reading experience. Quotes (not formatted) "...the fellowship between people that occurs in language." (xxxiii) "...the pause a kind of gap between what she knew an what the words could do." (Rick Barot, 8) "...where time widens to include more of itself." "I light my heart with so much emptiness there's room here in the dark for everything." "Some days I know the strongest feeling is grief but I believe it mus Collections like this are wonderful mix of voices and styles. For me, they lead to a mixed reading experience. Quotes (not formatted) "...the fellowship between people that occurs in language." (xxxiii) "...the pause a kind of gap between what she knew an what the words could do." (Rick Barot, 8) "...where time widens to include more of itself." "I light my heart with so much emptiness there's room here in the dark for everything." "Some days I know the strongest feeling is grief but I believe it must be love: it has to be, has to be, hast to. Some days I feel each cell in my body has its fingers crossed" (Timothy Donnelly, 32-4) "...when I stood before a storm of scalding water that would have killed me if I gave it the mistake I looked for." (Christine Gosnay, 52) "...on a night as tender as a weed-whacker grinding into the withered earth." (BC Griffith, 65) "...does it help I only wanted so I could have the need?" (Paul Otremba, 134) "...the stranger and I danced at the party by the water, expecting what we desired." (Cecily Parks, 136) "...as the carnal exorbitance of fucking evolved over millennia to the restraint, exquisite, of a kiss." (Clare Rossini, 157) "People never shock me, but I love to be taken by surprise by loyalty and candor." (Robyn Schiff, 161)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenn Adams

    When it comes to a collection like this, coming up with one overarching rating can be a challenge. At the end of the day, I can evaluate this from two different perspectives: how much did I personally enjoy this vs. how "good" it was at doing what it set out to do. The Best American Poetry is released annually with a different guest editor each year. In the introduction to this anthology, Paisley Rekdal addresses the hows and whys of the curation process, and I think that this was very well done When it comes to a collection like this, coming up with one overarching rating can be a challenge. At the end of the day, I can evaluate this from two different perspectives: how much did I personally enjoy this vs. how "good" it was at doing what it set out to do. The Best American Poetry is released annually with a different guest editor each year. In the introduction to this anthology, Paisley Rekdal addresses the hows and whys of the curation process, and I think that this was very well done. There was quite an assortment of styles a content - topical issues were addressed in some poems, others were timeless. An experienced poetry reader may read this to keep up with the current 'scene', but a beginner could easily use this as a sampler to find out whose work to explore. 5 for quality, 3 for personal enjoyment, just because I don't read a lot of poetry and I'm picky about what I like (keeping in mind that for me that's still a GOOD rating). I would definitely check out next year's edition if it comes across my path. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Natalie T.

    Rich, varied collection gives the opportunity to sample new poets and enjoy revisiting famous favorites--you get a lot of pleasure for a small investment. As always, I wish there were more women represented--guest editor Paisley Rekdal pushes the number up to a little better than 1-in-3, so bless her for that, but here the times change slowly. Her choices are daring and resonant, though, so you will spend more time reading than you think: you read a poet you never heard of, get blown away, and t Rich, varied collection gives the opportunity to sample new poets and enjoy revisiting famous favorites--you get a lot of pleasure for a small investment. As always, I wish there were more women represented--guest editor Paisley Rekdal pushes the number up to a little better than 1-in-3, so bless her for that, but here the times change slowly. Her choices are daring and resonant, though, so you will spend more time reading than you think: you read a poet you never heard of, get blown away, and then read a few more, and feel your day cleansed and your life enhanced. Special mention to John Murillo's astonishing sonnet sequence, "A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn"--wow!--and to Rachel Eliza Griffiths' "Good Mother," which is perfection, and to Camille Guthrie's fabulously imaginative "During the Middle Ages," and Craig Morgan Teicher's "I Am a Father Now," and Matthew Olzmann's "Letter to the Person Who, During the Q&A Session After the Reading, Asked for Career Advice." These were all new poets to me, and I went instantly in search of their books: they're that good.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cornelio

    This year’s annual collection, edited by a poet I love, Paisley Rekdal, touched on many feelings, aesthetics, and hard thoughts in voices of many styles: the lyrical, the rhythmic, the poignant, the confessor, the angry, the solemn, the political, the personal, the straight up howl, the damn the ‘poetics’, sometimes all in one poem. And begs re-reads to mine even more. ‘Out loud we are a silence, isn’t it thought conglomerate purpose, the old head considering what to say; ought one be bound to it— This year’s annual collection, edited by a poet I love, Paisley Rekdal, touched on many feelings, aesthetics, and hard thoughts in voices of many styles: the lyrical, the rhythmic, the poignant, the confessor, the angry, the solemn, the political, the personal, the straight up howl, the damn the ‘poetics’, sometimes all in one poem. And begs re-reads to mine even more. ‘Out loud we are a silence, isn’t it thought conglomerate purpose, the old head considering what to say; ought one be bound to it— but I can’t be thinking like this I am instead reading, am trying to read against this thought of what to say… -excerpt from “Reading Not Reading” Ryo Yamaguchi for live reading: https://youtu.be/5xN4YycrRJo

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matheus Silva

    This is more than a poetry book. It’s a reflection of what the US currently is, so you’ll not like it if you expect bucolic rhymes. You’re in for a treat if you enjoy long poems. My personal favorites (in order of appearance): - “Costumer Loyalty Program” by Brandon Amico - “Orange” by William Brewer - “Obit” by Victoria Chang - “The Shore” by Vievee Francis - “It cannot be” by Jorie Graham - “During the Middle Ages” by Camille Guthrie - “The Gift” by Jennifer L. Knox - “Night of the Living” by Susan Les This is more than a poetry book. It’s a reflection of what the US currently is, so you’ll not like it if you expect bucolic rhymes. You’re in for a treat if you enjoy long poems. My personal favorites (in order of appearance): - “Costumer Loyalty Program” by Brandon Amico - “Orange” by William Brewer - “Obit” by Victoria Chang - “The Shore” by Vievee Francis - “It cannot be” by Jorie Graham - “During the Middle Ages” by Camille Guthrie - “The Gift” by Jennifer L. Knox - “Night of the Living” by Susan Leslie Moore - “Chasm” by Huey Minh Nguyen - “Letter to the Person Who, During the Q&A Session After the Reading, Asked for Career Advice” by Matthew Olzmann - “The Poorly Built House” by Max Ritvo - “The Prayer” by James Tate - “Machinery” by Robert Wrigley - “My Life” by Matthew Zapruder

  24. 4 out of 5

    Keeley

    Long live poetry! As a poor struggling poet myself, I don't often get to read all the literary journals throughout the year and am somewhat out of touch with contemporary poetry. This annual compendium gives me great relief as evidence that poetry is alive and well. While the selected poems often feel similar in form, there is a good variety of content and you are sure to find a gem you love. I especially enjoyed Camille Guthrie's "During the Middle Ages" ("Some local doctor would have to drill Long live poetry! As a poor struggling poet myself, I don't often get to read all the literary journals throughout the year and am somewhat out of touch with contemporary poetry. This annual compendium gives me great relief as evidence that poetry is alive and well. While the selected poems often feel similar in form, there is a good variety of content and you are sure to find a gem you love. I especially enjoyed Camille Guthrie's "During the Middle Ages" ("Some local doctor would have to drill a hole in/ my head/ To let the demons out because I'd be full/ Of Black bile plus heresy as I am today") and am excited to check out her other work. Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Evanne Lindley

    Of the BAP collections I’ve read, this one felt the most comprehensive while not focusing on any one topic. This year’s guest editor, Paisley Rekdal, wrote in her introduction that she aim was to choose poems that brought her pleasure. I appreciated that endeavor as a reader even if how each poem met those requirements for her wasn’t always clear. One thing for sure, Rekdal likes a poem about a painting. There were at least 3 or 4. (“The Stag” made so much more sense after looking up the paintin Of the BAP collections I’ve read, this one felt the most comprehensive while not focusing on any one topic. This year’s guest editor, Paisley Rekdal, wrote in her introduction that she aim was to choose poems that brought her pleasure. I appreciated that endeavor as a reader even if how each poem met those requirements for her wasn’t always clear. One thing for sure, Rekdal likes a poem about a painting. There were at least 3 or 4. (“The Stag” made so much more sense after looking up the painting.) I recommend reading the notes at the back from each author directly before or after reading each poem. Since you’re jumping from poet to poet, it can be a bit jarring to jump between styles and topics but the added context from the poet helps, especially poems like “Study of Two Figures (Pasiphae/Sado)” where the author’s notes give you the mythical and historical context behind the two figures. My favorites: The Galleons All Through the War On Patmos, Kneeling in the Panagia Good Mother Putting the Pieces Together Sunday at the Mall Bear Chasm Letter to the Person Who, During the Q&A Session After the Reading, Asked for Career Advice I Am a Father Now The Stag Isfahan, 2010 Machinery Study of Two Figures (Pasiphae/Sado)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amie

    The Best American Poetry 2020 skews more toward the academic reader with an extensive forward and introduction. The poetry collection includes works by dozens of accomplished and notable poets that are quintessentially American in their diversity. It is not a work meant for the casual poetry lover. Rather, it is a collection for those who love to dig deep into themes, styles, and symbols within the text.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I love poetry but I think it's poetry "anthologies" that I have trouble with. This collection is hard to rate because some of the poems were outstanding (looking at you Zapruder!) and others were just odd, show-offy, experimental poems. I think I'll stick to collections by my favorites (Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, William Matthews, Sharon Olds etc.) I'll leave these curated collections off of my "must read" list. I love poetry but I think it's poetry "anthologies" that I have trouble with. This collection is hard to rate because some of the poems were outstanding (looking at you Zapruder!) and others were just odd, show-offy, experimental poems. I think I'll stick to collections by my favorites (Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, William Matthews, Sharon Olds etc.) I'll leave these curated collections off of my "must read" list.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mooney

    I always enjoy reading this yearly collection though I do not always agree with the guest editor about the particular poems being "the best". This year had fewer poems that I connected with than other years. Some stand out pieces for me were Good Mother by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Isfahan, 2010 by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad, Letter to the Person Who....Advice by Matthew Olzmann, and The President's Telegram by John Yau. I always enjoy reading this yearly collection though I do not always agree with the guest editor about the particular poems being "the best". This year had fewer poems that I connected with than other years. Some stand out pieces for me were Good Mother by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Isfahan, 2010 by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad, Letter to the Person Who....Advice by Matthew Olzmann, and The President's Telegram by John Yau.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    The poems I enjoyed most in this collection: "Chasm," by Hieu Minh Nguyen "Hyacinth Aria," by Sharon Olds "Letter to the Person Who, During the Q&A Session After the Reading, Asked for Career Advice," by Matthew Olzmann "The Prayer," by James Tate "I am a Father Now" by Craig Morgan Teicher "She talk like this ’cause me Mum born elsewhere, say" by Lynne Thompson "Recessional," by Corey Van Landingham "Machinery," by Robert Wrigley "Study of Two Figures (Pasiphaë/Sado)," by Monica Youn The poems I enjoyed most in this collection: "Chasm," by Hieu Minh Nguyen "Hyacinth Aria," by Sharon Olds "Letter to the Person Who, During the Q&A Session After the Reading, Asked for Career Advice," by Matthew Olzmann "The Prayer," by James Tate "I am a Father Now" by Craig Morgan Teicher "She talk like this ’cause me Mum born elsewhere, say" by Lynne Thompson "Recessional," by Corey Van Landingham "Machinery," by Robert Wrigley "Study of Two Figures (Pasiphaë/Sado)," by Monica Youn

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mark Wenz

    There’s much to like in this volume but much also to shake one’s head at as it seems that Rekdal enjoys “difficult” poetry that is hard to interpret or, in my case, even relate to. Nevertheless, I enjoyed most of the poems and am overall a fan of the series, which I will continue to support and treasure. Grade: B

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