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The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry Paperback – Nov 1990


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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (Nov. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679728589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679728580
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.3 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,740,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Jan. 1997
Format: Paperback
The poet Robert Wallace said, "No magic, no poem."
In this collection, edited by J.D. McClatchy, there is
enough magic to power a year's worth of David Copperfield
performances. Bringing together the disparate but somehow
harmonious voices of Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Jorie
Graham, Elizabeth Bishop and sixty-one other outstanding
contemporary poets, this collection provides a wonderful
overview of our country's modern poetry movement. Such
classics as Plath's "Daddy" and Ginsberg's "Sunflower Sutra"
can be found alongside works by Denise Levertov,
Edward Hirsch and the beautifully imagistic James Schuyler.

Poetry these days, particularly as represented on the 'net,
seems to have become gritty and ultra-confessional. It is a
pleasure to read a work where the poets employ the old-fashioned
devices of metaphor and imagery to create powerful
emotions in the reader and to express something of their own
inner lives. Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bressons_puddle on 7 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
Any anthology will have its [sometimes] glaring and controversial omissions and this anthology is no different. In this particular selection, the absence of both Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso immediately caught my eye and I'm sure others could add many more names to the list but, at the end of the day, we have to take the collection (now in its second edition) as it stands and not as it might have been. And, I would certainly have no hesitation in highly recommending this anthology as it stands.

However, I do have some quibbles and the first is the title itself. The majority (75%) of the poets featured in this selection were born before 1940 and more than half of the poets featured were born in the 1920s. Those who have survived are now in their eighties and, whilst I have the greatest respect for their durability, it does seem to be stretching the point to claim their work as the voice of `contemporary' American poetry. That's what it says on the tin.

The selection is also astoundingly safe and the biographies read like a procession of American poet laureates and literary professors in fifty seven varied but similar academic guises. In that respect, there is a sense that - rather like the The Best American Poetry 2011 series - this is the American poetry establishment publishing and honouring itself. I do not get any sense of the full on vibrancy and challenge posed by, for example, the influential and still highly relevant New American Poetry, 1945-1960.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very thorough book which displays the talents of some of America's finest twentieth century poets. The order is logically presented and the variety of poets is pleasing with males and females nearly equally represented. I bought the book as an introduction to modern American poetry so obviously more well-known American poets such as Walt Whitman and Robert Frost will not be in here, but in my opinion the exclusivity of this anthology means that the poems are a very unique collection.

Obviously works by Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg are included, but these really are the most well-known. Beyond that, readers will enjoy impressive poems by Robert Penn Warren, Frank O'Hara, Robert Lowell, James Merrill and John Berryman. Female poets who impress include Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, May Swenson and Denise Levertov. The cover of the book is suitably contemporary and the pages themselves have a pulpy-feel to them which enhances the notion of being privy to a journey into the demi-monde of American poetry as you read each one.

As with any anthology readers will always dispute what is left out rather than enjoying what is included. This book does everything it sets out to do: it is a very accurate snapshot of contemporary American poetry and focuses upon many of the outsiders, for want if a better term. It is a really interesting read and whilst you may not enjoy each and every poem, there is definitely something for everyone in this anthology that will make you want to read more by a particular poet.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 21 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Useful despite its flaws 13 Nov. 2006
By Sarang Gopalakrishnan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is decidedly an anthology of poets rather than poems: everyone gets at least three pages and a half-page introduction. It's also fairly encyclopedic and catholic. The main use of an anthology of this type is to give the interested reader a quick idea of what, say, Merwin or Ashbery or Clampitt is all about. This task it discharges quite well.

Now for the flaws. There are some idiosyncratic omissions, which hurt the book; regardless of what McClatchy thinks of Robert Bly, he should have included a few of his poems and let the reader judge for himself. Similarly with Stanley Kunitz. I assume McClatchy likes Thom Gunn and left him out for being British, which is a little silly because he spent most of his life in California. These omissions make the book a little less complete as a reference.

More seriously, the anthology is a hard slog because so many of the poems are at least a couple of pages long. This means you can't dip in at random and read a poem and be surprised -- which is what anthologies are traditionally for. It would be a more readable book if there were fewer interminable blank verse meditations, many of them unengaging and not very characteristic -- e.g. one would not realize from the selections that Merrill and Hecht were masters of poetic form. That said, one does get some idea of each voice if one persists.

A persistent pattern in this period is the mid-career switch from highly formal verse to a distinctive personal style. (Lowell, Berryman, W.S. Merwin, James Wright, Plath...) It's fascinating to see the mature style next to the earlier style; the book does this sometimes, but not with Merwin.

On the whole this anthology is a slightly unhappy medium. It would have served its purpose better if it had been more conventional; on the other hand I'd have really liked to see an unabashedly personal anthology that more vividly reflected McClatchy's own tastes. Still, what we have is a useful introduction to a very rich period.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Worthwhile read for poetry enthusiasts. 17 Jan. 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The poet Robert Wallace said, "No magic, no poem."
In this collection, edited by J.D. McClatchy, there is
enough magic to power a year's worth of David Copperfield
performances. Bringing together the disparate but somehow
harmonious voices of Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Jorie
Graham, Elizabeth Bishop and sixty-one other outstanding
contemporary poets, this collection provides a wonderful
overview of our country's modern poetry movement. Such
classics as Plath's "Daddy" and Ginsberg's "Sunflower Sutra"
can be found alongside works by Denise Levertov,
Edward Hirsch and the beautifully imagistic James Schuyler.

Poetry these days, particularly as represented on the 'net,
seems to have become gritty and ultra-confessional. It is a
pleasure to read a work where the poets employ the old-fashioned
devices of metaphor and imagery to create powerful
emotions in the reader and to express something of their own
inner lives. Highly recommended!
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Can you have a "Vintage" book of "Contemporary" poems? 3 Aug. 2002
By M. Swinney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Besides the seemingly at odds title, this book is pretty indispensable as far as poetry anthologies go. To even people that love and follow poetry the muddle of 20th and 21st century poetry writers can leave one scratching one's head fuddled at where to begin. This collection edited by J.D. McClatchy is perhaps the best place to start.
This book is a smorgasbord of modern day poets. It turned me on to such vastly different talents as Ginsberg, Robert Penn Warren, and Mark Strand. It starts with Robert Lowell telling us, "I want words meat-hooked from the living steer, but a cold flame of tinfoil licks the metal log, beautiful unchanging fire of vision..." and ends with Gjertrud Schnackenberg, "Covered with snow, and snow in clouds above it, And drifts and swirls too deep to understand. Still, I must try to think a little of it, with so much winter in my head and hand." There is a description of each writer straightforward and unpretentious. In its compactness, 65 writers are covered with each represented by 3-14 poems each.
I was pretty surprised to see only one review written for this book here on Amazon. I sure hope more people are owning, reading, and cherishing this book than reviewing it because to let it fall by the wayside would be something literally tragic. It's a jumping off point, a springboard. A beginning to discovery of writers and word, beautiful, unique, gymnastically agile words. We like it so much, we have two copies, one I had for myself and one I bought for my wife before we were married. Now which one will I read tonight?
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Launch Pad For Poetry Lovers 27 April 2005
By E. Kendall - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I bought a copy of the first edition of this book (much prettier cover I am sorry to say) in high school. I thumbed through it, over and over, finding new and different poems to savor, getting exposed to countless amazing poets whose full books now grace my shelves (Anthony Hecht, Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, Mona Van Duyn, Howard Nemerov). This book, by choosing generally shorter poems that catch your eye (with some exceptions) by a host of excellent modern poets with tremendous variations in styles, changed me from a poetry dabbler to a true poetry consumer and fan. I often give away copies of this book, with post-its marking my favorites. I highly, highly recommend this book, particularly to people intimidated by the number of diverse and excellent poets from which to choose.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Sets the bar for 'Best American Poetry' 29 Aug. 2005
By Daniel J. Klotz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you've ever been disappointed by the inconsistent quality of poems found in the "Best American Poetry" series published by Scribner (with series editor David Lehman), this anthology will show you why. Not every poem will give you chills or connect with your soul, but not a single one is bad or banal.
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