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The Oxford Book of American Poetry Hardcover – 13 Jul 2006


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Review

"It can't get much better than this."--Rochelle Moore, Associated Content
"The book is not only a sound historical survey, but also gives the reader a powerful taste of poetry's impact upon the wider world."--The Economist
"Indeed, for the reader otherwise disinclined to pick up a volume of poetry, you may also find yourself enjoying the selections in this collection. It will be a purchase that will stay with you far longer than any meal at a fancy restaurant upon which you might spend the money. And it will be better
for you as well."--The Washington Times
"There is no one more qualified to undertake such a project...a brilliant updating of the previous edition."--James Tate, a member of the Academy of American Arts and Letters and winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in poetry


"David Lehman's Oxford anthology is the single most important volume of American poetry in a generation. While we can all quibble about inclusions and exclusions (even in a 1,000-page selection), Lehman's eye--and his ear--have produced a work that will last us well into the new century."--Ashton
Nichols, Dickinson College
"It can't get much better than this."--Rochelle Moore, Associated Content
"The book is not only a sound historical survey, but also gives the reader a powerful taste of poetry's impact upon the wider world."--The Economist
"Indeed, for the reader otherwise disinclined to pick up a volume of poetry, you may also find yourself enjoying the selections in this collection. It will be a purchase that will stay with you far longer than any meal at a fancy restaurant upon which you might spend the money. And it will be better
for you as well."--The Washington Times
"There is no one more qualified to undertake such a project...a brilliant updating of the previous edition."--James Tate, a member of the Academy of American Arts and Letters and winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in poetry



"David Lehman's Oxford anthology is the single most important volume of American poetry in a generation. While we can all quibble about inclusions and exclusions (even in a 1,000-page selection), Lehman's eye--and his ear--have produced a work that will last us well into the new century."--Ashton
Nichols, Dickinson College
"It can't get much better than this."--Rochelle Moore, Associated Content
"The book is not only a sound historical survey, but also gives the reader a powerful taste of poetry's impact upon the wider world."--The Economist
"Indeed, for the reader otherwise disinclined to pick up a volume of poetry, you may also find yourself enjoying the selections in this collection. It will be a purchase that will stay with you far longer than any meal at a fancy restaurant upon which you might spend the money. And it will be better
for you as well."--The Washington Times
"There is no one more qualified to undertake such a project...a brilliant updating of the previous edition."--James Tate, a member of the Academy of American Arts and Letters and winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in poetry


"David Lehman's Oxford anthology is the single most important volume of American poetry in a generation. While we can all quibble about inclusions and exclusions (even in a 1,000-page selection), Lehman's eye--and his ear--have produced a work that will last us well into the new century."--Ashton Nichols, Dickinson College
"It can't get much better than this."--Rochelle Moore, Associated Content
"The book is not only a sound historical survey, but also gives the reader a powerful taste of poetry's impact upon the wider world."--The Economist
"Indeed, for the reader otherwise disinclined to pick up a volume of poetry, you may also find yourself enjoying the selections in this collection. It will be a purchase that will stay with you far longer than any meal at a fancy restaurant upon which you might spend the money. And it will be better for you as well."--The Washington Times
"There is no one more qualified to undertake such a project...a brilliant updating of the previous edition."--James Tate, a member of the Academy of American Arts and Letters and winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in poetry



"David Lehman's Oxford anthology is the single most important volume of American poetry in a generation. While we can all quibble about inclusions and exclusions (even in a 1,000-page selection), Lehman's eye--and his ear--have produced a work that will last us well into the new century."--Ashton Nichols, Dickinson College


"It can't get much better than this."--Rochelle Moore, Associated Content


"The book is not only a sound historical survey, but also gives the reader a powerful taste of poetry's impact upon the wider world."--The Economist


"Indeed, for the reader otherwise disinclined to pick up a volume of poetry, you may also find yourself enjoying the selections in this collection. It will be a purchase that will stay with you far longer than any meal at a fancy restaurant upon which you might spend the money. And it will be better for you as well."--The Washington Times


"There is no one more qualified to undertake such a project...a brilliant updating of the previous edition."--James Tate, a member of the Academy of American Arts and Letters and winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in poetry


About the Author


David Lehman is Poetry Coordinator of the New School Writing Program in New York City. His most recent books of poetry are The Evening Sun and When a Woman Loves a Man and he has written five books of critical prose, including The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets and The Perfect Murder: A Study in Detection. He founded The Best American Poetry series in 1988 and continues to serve as general editor of this prestigious anthology. He also edited Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present and co-edited The KGB Bar Book of Poems, based on the reading series he directed with Star Black in New York's East Village.
John Brehm (Associate Editor) is a poet and free-lance writer. His works include The Way Water Moves and Sea of Faith, which won a Brittingham Prize for Poetry. He lives in New York City.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8c777aa4) out of 5 stars 34 reviews
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c3c763c) out of 5 stars Great book 1 Jun. 2006
By Jordan M. Poss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Oxford Book of American Poetry is a fine anthology of most of America's premier poets. While, as one reviewed pointed out, the South is a bit under-represented, the collection is still excellent and offers the best that American poetry has to offer. The book is strongest in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with the more modern stuff not quite as good or as generously selected--most contemporary poets have very little of their work represented here.
This book's greatest non-literary asset, though, is its affordability. While a Norton anthology can run between $70 and $80 (and they are usually worth it), this book just costs $35 and is even cheaper here on Amazon. The Oxford Book of American Poetry is not only a good anthology, it's a steal.
And yes, this book really does look impressive on the shelf (though of course it won't be on the shelf often, if you're a poetry lover).
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c3711ec) out of 5 stars Interesting but Unbalanced 28 Oct. 2007
By polumetis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The one thing a reader may reasonably ask of such a collection is that it make a serious effort to be balanced. Greatness and coverage have to fight it out, with a vision of the whole book acting as referee. This does not really happen here. For example, the editor is something of an expert on A.R.Ammons, and a dozen or so of his poems are included. James Dickey? Nothing. Nary a jingle. This raises uncomfortable questions, as Dickey was clearly one of the finest American poets of the second half of the twentieth century (read Cherrylog Road, or The Heaven of Animals, or any of another 30-40 of his best poems). By all accounts, Dickey was a difficult, even boorish, person who alienated most of the literary establishment with his objectionable personal qualities and his "manly man" old-boy non-literary accomplishments (football player, fighter pilot). Who cares? Leaving him out of a 1080-page collection of American poetry could be seen as an act of editorial dishonesty. While (as far as I can tell) no other omission matches this one, the large amount of space devoted to some poets of the first rank, as another reviewer noted, does tend to freeze out a number of first-rate poems by poets of the second or third rank.

In Dickey's case it looks like literary politics; in other cases it is a matter of taking some good poets (like Ammons) or great poets (like Whitman) and overplaying them so others are underrepresented or absent.

If an anthologist were guided by a question such as "What would I say to a reader of 200 years hence if that reader knew how to read English but would never know any other American poetry?" then a fair balance between greatness and coverage might be approximated. As it stands, this is another seriously flawed anthology. Perhaps the only thing the national tradition can do is to assemble an anthology of anthologies and hope that, as usual, the wisdom of all will surpass the tastes of one. This is not guaranteed, however, in the short to medium term, at least. Until T.S.Eliot and a few adventurous editors helped to resuscitate people like the Jacobean poets and dramatists, they were known mainly to astute scholars and alert readers who searched them out in the musty corners of famous university libraries. Nearly 300 years after the fact, literary readers were still stuck in Thomas Moore, Cowper, and other now mostly forgotten worthies, in addition to the usual suspects (the big names), and had barely heard of Tourneur, Webster, or even Donne.

Editing a big-name anthology like the Oxford, and following in the steps of two illustrious predecessors, brings with it the responsibility to fulfill a serious educational trust. Everything included means something is excluded, and the difference between having one poem in the book and none is a thousand times bigger than the difference between one and two. It would be interesting to do an anthology of 1000 American poets, with each poet getting a single entry.

So, dear reader, if you already have a few anthologies of American poetry, go ahead and add this one. Like other "doorstops," it will serve as a decent collection of links to individual poets. If you have none, buy three or four and consider including this duckling.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have this bad habit of buying anthologies of poetry, though I have many favorite poets. This time, I almost made it to the checkout with the collected works of Robert Frost when I stumbled upon this amazing gem. This is the most complete anthology of American poets I have yet to see. I would dare say even, "definitive". I paid full price for it (fool that I am) and don't regret it one bit. This volume is priceless.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a superb anthology of American poetry. A very thick book which begins with Anne Bradstreet in the 17th century and concludes with a poem by John Yau published in 2002. Lehman used a birthdate of 1950 as the cutoff for the last set of poets anthologized. The great 19th century figures of Whitman and Dickinson receive their, as well as many lesser 17th, 18th, and 19th century poets. The great majority of this book, however, is devoted to 20th century poets and the great range and depth of poets anthologized testifies to the vigor of American poets over the course of the 20th century. Lehman has clearly tried hard to give major figures their due while featuring the considerable variety of American poetry. He includes, for example, both TS Eliot and WH Auden, the former on the basis of his American birth and the latter on the basis of his long American residence. Most of the Auden poems featured were written in the USA. As with any anthology, tough choices have to be made. Some readers will be put off by the exclusion of favorite writers or favorite works. I would have liked to see Louise Bogan's powerful elegy for her brother or Robert Hayden's wonderful celebration of Frederick Douglass or at least some parts of Williams' long poem Asphodel. These absences are compensated by the experience of encountering previously unfamiliar and powerful work. This is an excellent book for reading around. This is a very nicely produced book with an excellent index. Each poet's section is preceded by a short para by Lehman providing some interesting information about the poets.
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c3dabc4) out of 5 stars An Invitation into the World of American Poetry 18 Dec. 2006
By Rebecca of Amazon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you love poetry, one book will never satisfy your hunger or lifelong search for poem perfection. Each book offers a unique perspective and The Oxford Book of American Poetry seeks to present an American viewpoint with over 200 poets revealing their most intimate thoughts. The poems warmly present insights into the viewpoint of the poets as they comment on cultural norms or decry conditions of their times.

The first poems seem to set a tradition of extensive stories to blend observations in nature with descriptions of insights into moments. Poems like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Bridge" have a soft beauty and thoughtful reflective quality. "To One in Paradise" by Edgar Allen Poe is stunning and revelatory in its romantic appeal. "The Raven" and "Annabel Lee" also appear.

Many of the poems retain a historical significance and present a record of the emotions felt by those viewing the birth of new freedoms. The delicious culinary poem about "Hasty-Pudding" was a sweet surprise.

"I am the poet of the body,
And I am the poet of the soul."
~Walt Whitman

I will say that I became entranced by Walt Whitman's enthusiastic portrayal of life and his poems are an especially luminous moment that spans across many pages, which are needed because The Song of Myself (1855 edition) is included and takes up 48 pages! His soul seems to dance between moments as if infusing all he observes with an expansive optimism steeped in appreciation for all that he experiences. I loved these lines from "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd:"

"Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines and cedars dusk and dim."

While most of the first 100 or so pages were completely new to me, hope dawned as I started to discover familiar favorites like "Wild Nights" by Emily Dickinson. "The Road Not Taken" appeared along the way and "This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams reveals beautiful images of cool plums from an icebox . My favorite poem by Elinor Wylie did not make it into this book, but I was pleasantly surprised by "The Puritan's Ballad" which is very sensual:

"Within his arms I feared to sink
Where lions shook their manes,
And dragons drawn in azure ink
Leapt quickened by his veins."

If you crave the sensuality of language and longing, there is much to enjoy. While most of the poems do not focus on romantic longings, there are quite a few sensual poems. Denise Levertov explores male longing in his poem: "The Mutes" where he presents a striking reality.

"Swan and Shadow" by John Hollander is actually shaped like a swan on a lake with its reflection and was a lovely visual surprise. Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry" appears along with "Shoveling Snow with Buddha" and "Dharma." Rachel Hadas presents cool crisp images in "Riverside Park:"

"...strolling lovers vanish in the glare
flung from the river by the westering sun.
I can hardly claim to be alone.
Nevertheless, of all whom autumn's new
russet brocades are draping, none is you."

While longing and desire do seem present in many of the poems, the sheer desire of the poet to communicate the experiences seems to be the main theme throughout. Dana Gioia's "Summer Storm" brings a moment as close to our experience as it can possibly be in a poem. Rain from a sudden thunderstorm is almost symbolic of a sudden attraction that is highly memorable.

Some of the poets featured in this anthology include: Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, Francis Scott Key, Julia Ward Howe, Herman Melville, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, E.E. Cummings, W. H. Auden, Kenneth Rexroth and Sylvia Plath.

It is my theory that if you find one or two new poems, then you have succeeded in your reading mission. Throughout this book I found many poems I not only liked, but I loved. Most of the poems were completely new to me and do span such an extensive time period (Poets born between 1616 and 1950), it is more than likely impossible to find all these poems in your own lifetime if you were to try to read a book by each of the poets. This is a much easier way to find poets you might enjoy and then you can select a few poetry books by poets you truly think you will love.

If you enjoy American Poetry, then "The Best American Poetry 2005" may also intrigue you. I'm working my way through the "Best American Poetry" series and have been impressed with how each book paints a picture of a year in the life of America.

~The Rebecca Review

P.S. If you enjoy poetry, I think you may love poems
by Brian Douthit and Diane Anjoue. The book "Eyes of the Poet"
is truly beautiful.
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