14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Dream Manifested, 22 Mar 2005
This book is the manifestation of the dream of former U.S. Poet Laureate Joseph Brodsky when he said, "Poetry must be available to the public in far greater volume than it is." Brodsky believed that poetry books should be distributed free of charge in many places, such as supermarkets and factories. He also had the idea that an anthology of poetry should be, "found in every hotel room in the land." Brodsky went on to create the American Poetry & Literacy Project in 1993, and is the compiler of this book.
This little anthology covers more than 350 years of American poetry. It includes poets who were famous in their own time such as Edgar Allen Poe, and poets whose talents weren't realized until after their death, such as Emily Dickinson. It displays American patriotism in poems such as Walt Whitman's, "I Hear America Singing", and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride." Poems such as, "Dream Deferred (Harlem)" by Langston Hughes, and "Incident" by Countee Cullen, explore themes of racial prejudice and African American culture. War, loneliness, nature, children, all the many issues and emotions we as human beings find ourselves dealing with today, are all included in this small, yet well-comprised anthology.
Many of my personal favorites include poems about poetry itself. These poets and writers give serious, and not so serious, contemplation to the art of writing. On page 65, the teacher and library assistant Marianne Moore begins her poem, "Poetry" with these lines:
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
Moore, known for her complex poems was known as the "poet's poet," and was the editor of the literary magazine The Dial, according the book's biography about her.
Pulitzer prize winner Archibald Macleish's poem, "Ars Poetica" gives his view of what a poem should be on page 72:
A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs
The books biography on Macleish says that he was an editor for Fortune magazine, Librarian of Congress, and Assistant Secretary of State.
According to Andrew Carroll, the Executive Director of The American Poetry and Literacy Project, Joseph Brodsky never saw the final version of this book, "101 Great American Poems" before his death. He leaves us however, with Brodsky's inspiring words in his Introduction to the book:
"Books find their readers, and if not, well let them lie around, absorb dust, rot and disintegrate. There is always going to be a child who will fish a book out of the garbage heap. I was such a child, for what it's worth..."
For us, Brodsky's own poetry and the legacy he left behind in The American Poetry and Literacy Project, continues to be worth a fortune.
author of "Perfectly Said: when words become art"