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The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry Hardcover – 25 Oct 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 599 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (25 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143106430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143106432
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 982,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"At last, 20th century poetry itself! Rita Dove''s [anthology] is intelligent, generous, surprising, and altogether thrilling to read- literally, a heart-thumping collection. In her editorial hands the 20th century is broad but sharply contoured. Most other poetry anthologies give us schools, corners, clubs, and identities, but this one gives us something beyond representative that gets at the extraordinary accomplishment and range of multi-vocal American poetry in the century. Dove''s selection-and this book-will long stand as the definitive anthology of American poetry."---Elizabeth Alexander

""The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry" has the solid, respectable, upright feel of a book bound for the syllabuses of myriad college courses. But it also has enough surprises to make it ideal for the rest of us too. It belongs on the bedside table as well as in a backpack."--"The Chicago Tribune"

"Selecting poets and poems to represent a century of poetry, especially the riotous twentieth century in America, is a massive undertaking fraught with peril and complication. Poet Rita Dove-a Pulitzer Prize- winning former U.S. poet laureate, professor, and presidential scholar- embarked on what became a consuming four-year odyssey. She reports on obstacles and discoveries in an exacting and forthright introduction, featuring striking quotes, vivid profiles, and a panoramic view of the evolution of poetic visions and styles that helped bring about social as well as artistic change [...] Dove's incisive perception of the role of poetry in cultural and social awakenings infuses this zestful and rigorous gathering of poems both necessary and unexpected by 180 American poets. This landmark anthology will instantly enhance and invigorate every poetry shelf or section."---Donna Seaman for"Booklist"

"At last, 20th century poetry itself! Rita Dove's [anthology] is intelligent, generous, surprising, and altogether thrilling to read- literally, a heart-thumping collection. In her editorial hands the 20th century is broad but sharply contoured. Most other poetry anthologies give us schools, corners, clubs, and identities, but this one gives us something beyond representative that gets at the extraordinary accomplishment and range of multi-vocal American poetry in the century. Dove's selection-and this book-will long stand as the definitive anthology of American poetry."---Elizabeth Alexander

"Former U.S. Poet Laureate Dove takes a fresh look at the canon of 20th century American poetry in this hefty anthology [...] This book is sure to become an important resource for those interested in poetry, and especially students, for decades to come." "Publishers Weekly" [Starredreview]
"Selecting poets and poems to represent a century of poetry, especially the riotous twentieth century in America, is a massive undertaking fraught with peril and complication. Poet Rita Dove-a Pulitzer Prize- winning former U.S. poet laureate, professor, and presidential scholar- embarked on what became a consuming four-year odyssey. She reports on obstacles and discoveries in an exacting and forthright introduction, featuring striking quotes, vivid profiles, and a panoramic view of the evolution of poetic visions and styles that helped bring about social as well as artistic change [...] Dove's incisive perception of the role of poetry in cultural and social awakenings infuses this zestful and rigorous gathering of poems both necessary and unexpected by 180 American poets. This landmark anthology will instantly enhance and invigorate every poetry shelf or section." Donna Seaman for "Booklist"
"At last, 20th century poetry itself! Rita Dove's [anthology] is intelligent, generous, surprising, and altogether thrilling to read- literally, a heart-thumping collection. In her editorial hands the 20th century is broad but sharply contoured. Most other poetry anthologies give us schools, corners, clubs, and identities, but this one gives us something beyond representative that gets at the extraordinary accomplishment and range of multi-vocal American poetry in the century. Dove's selection-and this book-will long stand as the definitive anthology of American poetry." Elizabeth Alexander
""The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry" has the solid, respectable, upright feel of a book bound for the syllabuses of myriad college courses. But it also has enough surprises to make it ideal for the rest of us too. It belongs on the bedside table as well as in a backpack." "The Chicago Tribune""

About the Author

Rita Dove is an award-winning poet, former U .S. Poet Laureate, and Presidential Scholar. She has published numerous volumes of poetry, fiction, plays, and essays. She is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she lives with her husband, the writer Fred Viebahn.


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wonderful introduction and stunning poetry with a wide range across the century.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa1068a38) out of 5 stars 46 reviews
79 of 93 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0ba7cf0) out of 5 stars Beyond all this fiddle 21 Dec. 2011
By M. Feldman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a poetry anthology born in fire, a fire lit by a sharply critical review by the poetry critic Helen Vendler in The New York Review of Books and by a vituperative response in that same journal by the anthology's editor, poet Rita Dove. At issue are two things: Dove's 24 page Introduction to the volume and her criteria for which twentieth century American poets to include in the anthology.

I read the Introduction with care. Was it as poorly written as Vendler said it was? Alas, the answer is yes. At the outset, Dove declares her intention to present the poets in chronological order as opposed to, say, alphabetical order. Because of this choice, she feels impelled to offer background material; she is reluctant to let a poem stand alone, without our knowing "the conditions that spawned and nurtured it." At the same time, she freely acknowledges the difficulty of writing literary history, "for there are so many exceptions to whatever grid one tries to superimpose on living, breathing material." Dove should have heeded that inner warning, for the grid she does impose---"trends---patterns in a tapestry whose many colorful threads exult in running riot" is superficial and clichéd. Decades get their own little tags: "start[ing] afresh" (the early century); "the party before the knock on the door" (the 20's); "the self-satisfied fifties;" and so on. The "melting pot" gets several mentions. Poets stride onto the poetic stage (Wallace Stevens), woo "an entire generation" (Ezra Pound), "plunge headlong in the Long Poem" (H.D., William Carlos Williams, Melvin B. Tolson). The effect is like one of those illustrated Time Marches On timelines in a student's textbook. Believe me, you can skip the opening here; it offers little by way of insight. If you're interested in a particular poet, Wikipedia is probably more efficient.

The pleasures of this anthology are, of course, in the poems. Each poet gets a brief biography and list of published works. It goes almost without saying that no anthology is going to make everyone completely happy. Here, Dove dedicates herself to what she calls "the panorama of twentieth-century American poetry," which signals that she will offer a little bit by many poets (176 in all) rather than a more in-depth look at fewer. Thus more than one-third of her poets, including many born in the 1940's and later, are granted only one poem. Accomplished living poets like Carl Phillips, Sherman Alexie, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Alberto Rios, Marilyn Nelson, and Joy Harjo, to name a few, are limited to two each. An anthology offers readers a chance to fall in love with poets they've never read, but it's awfully hard to do so on the basis of just one poem.

As for the great poets of the first part of the century, you may find yourself looking in vain for old favorites, since Dove uses selection criteria that are often hard to figure out. You'll find "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" but not "After Apple Picking, "The Emperor of Ice Cream but not "Sunday Morning," "The Red Wheelbarrow" but not "To Elsie," "Harlem" but not "Theme for English B." In order to fit all of those 176 poets in, Dove had to put even the great ones on starvation diets of five or six pages. And because of problems with permissions (as Dove explains), there is no Ginsburg or Plath.

Are there pleasures to be had in this anthology, with its imperfect introduction and "panorama" approach? Well, of course. There is wonderful poetry here, including four by Dove herself. This book will do---until somebody writes a better one.

M. Feldman
40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa12c1528) out of 5 stars Good Starting Sampler 17 Dec. 2011
By texcritic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Poetry anthologies are generally pretty much alike: the same fifteen or twenty (or thirty) canonized poets; the same collection of their canonized poems, etc. etc. What I like about this anthology is that while it pays its due to the canonized masters, it also gives many lesser-known and more recent poets a voice (I was unfamiliar, for example, with Angelina Weld Grimke, an African-American poet of the early and mid-20th century). There is a rapid-fire set up in this book. Few later poets get more than a page or two, but Dove has included many of them -- names that will be familiar perhaps to academicians and writing program instructors, but perhaps not to persons picking up this book in a mall bookstore. The book is attractive and crisp in design, and Dove's introduction is very appropriate. There is a strong emphasis on inclusion here -- what more cynical readers will slight as "political correctness." But in other readers' eyes (mine included) this is a welcome and robust reflection of our increasingly multicultural national makeup. I would not hesitate to purchase this fine anthology and send to a friend or family member as a way of showing them what poetry was, and is, in the US. Highly recommended.
113 of 142 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa12c1234) out of 5 stars A Mediocre Anthology? 6 Nov. 2011
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Helen Vendler who for many is the preeminent critic of American Poetry strongly criticizes this present Anthology primarily for downplaying the role of the great or major American poets of the century who she considers to be T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens and perhaps Ezra Pound). It is by the way possible to criticize Vendler's selections also. In my judgment neither W.C. Williams nor Pound is in the same league with Eliot, Frost Stevens) She also finds fault with Rita Dove for her apparent 'political agenda' pointing out that the poets chosen who were born in the second half of the century are predominantly non- Wasp and non- white. She points out that a minor poet like Marvin Tolson is given fourteen pages while arguably the greatest American poet of the century, Wallace Stevens is given six, and then from his less complex early work. She suggests that Dove has a kind of low- brow idea of Poetry which really does not do justice to it as a high art form. If Every Person cannot read it and understand it it is not Poetry for Dove. This for Vendler is a cardinal sin.She believes that one- hundred and seventy- five poets as representative of an American century are a ridiculously high number. Who will be remembered? she asks, implying that it will be a handful or two at most.
Against this Rita Dove claims she was seeking to present a wide and representative view of the many faces of Poetry in the century. For her Poetry does not belong to the Poets and literary elite alone but belongs to the people. Each of us is a poet in some way and each of us can be a poetry reader. And so she has searched wide and been open to many different kinds of voices. And she has given readers an opportunity to meet with poems and names that they would otherwise never have known. The question is of course whether she has chosen among those names those who are truly worth knowing. Here I would agree with her apology in which she points to the subjective and personal element of the selection. How could it in a way be otherwise? One could of course say that in this Age of Electronic Publishing she could have gone even farther, and selected not one- hundred but one thousand or ten- thousand poets. After all there are tens of thousands of people writing and hopefully reading Poetry today. And if one is being wholly democratic each and every one of them would not mind having his or her poems in the Anthology.
Still in one sense I agree very much with Rita Dove .The old anthologies were too small and too closed.There were worlds beyond them. On the other hand I agree with Vendler. In a sense Wallace Stevens' work is worth more than the work of many of the writers taken together.
My problems with the Anthology however do not start and stop at this point. Dove may have given an inordinate place to black- writers. I would not especially have minded that. But to give place to a vicious hate- filled ranter like Leroi Jones is to my mind a basic error. Anti- white Racism is also Racism. There should be no place in an American Poetry anthology for who despises basic American values and freedoms. In this my position is not simply that Ethics supersedes Aesthetics. It is also a criticism of poor aesthetic judgment.
Another source of possible criticism relates to the nature of the selections of individual poets. Does one choose the best known poems, the best poems, or does one try to give the reader something new and different? As I understand her Dove tried to balance between these considerations.
What is commendable in the volume is the relatively large and broad selection of poets. Dove also tries to present the story as if it is an ongoing and one in which new poets are connected with changes in the issues and realities that confront Americans. Dove also makes a relatively small selection of her own work, a practice which Pulitzer Prize or not, Poet Laureate or not is in my judgment not warranted. Before the age of shameless self - promotion which ours has become, and which I admit to being a part of, an editor was an editor and a contributor a contributor.
PS I could have and perhaps should have written this review another way , selecting out most loved poems and poets, commending especially new poets whose work I did not previously know.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0fe6498) out of 5 stars Looking at a century of Poetry! 22 Mar. 2012
By C. J. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book after seeing Rita Dove interviewed by Bill Moyers on PBS in which the poet read selections from the collection including "Touch Me" by Stanley Kunitz. This is a compilation which validates the reader's experience in the twentieth century , revisiting poems we have grown up loving and also surprising us with pearls and golden ingots and smooth river stones we missed along the way. It is our record of the poetic journey of the past century. It is also the book that should be in the home where children are growing for its pure poetry and vivid insight into the human experience. I have only just begun to explore; It is a book to visit daily. The selections are arranged chronologically by the poets's birth years. A thoughtful gift.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0a521bc) out of 5 stars Penguin should have produced a better anthology. 18 April 2015
By Robert West - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkably scattershot anthology: there are 180 poets included, but only about 25 (among them the editor herself) are represented with four or more poems--and no one is represented by more than six. In an anthology this large, it's pretty strange to see Wallace Stevens represented only with six short poems, to see Langston Hughes represented only with four, to see Marianne Moore's career reduced to "The Fish" and two versions of "Poetry." And the relationships implied by the counts are pretty remarkable: are we really supposed to think that the editor stands as tall as Hughes in the history of American poetry? Taller than Moore? . . . There are some odd omissions, too. For instance, none of the Fugitives are represented at all: there's nothing by John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, or Allen Tate--nothing even by Robert Penn Warren, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the first to be appointed the nation's poet laureate. There are no poems by Allen Ginsberg and none by Sylvia Plath; the permission fees may have been high, but this is Penguin, not a cash-strapped small press. . . . It's difficult to think what course a teacher might adopt this for: one certainly couldn't use it as the textbook for a class in 20th-century American poetry. . . . On the other hand, it's a handsomely designed book, and it does include many fine and interesting poems. It would make a good gift. And who knows? Maybe someone reading the single poem by Margaret Walker, or the single poem by Howard Nemerov, or the single poem by Miller Williams, or the single poem by Audre Lorde, or the single poem by James Dickey, or the single poem by Sonia Sanchez, or the single poem by James Merrill, or the single poem by Jorie Graham would be moved to read more of that poet's work.
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