Contemporary American poetry has plenty to offer new readers, and plenty more for those who already follow it. Yet its difficulty—and sheer variety—leaves many readers puzzled or overwhelmed. The critic, scholar, and poet Stephanie Burt sets out to help. Beginning in the early 1980s, where critical consensus ends, Burt canvasses American poetry of the past four decades, from the headline-making urgency of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen to the stark pathos of Louise Glück, the limitless energy of Juan Felipe Herrera, and the erotic provocations of D. A. Powell.
The Poem Is You: Sixty Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them is a guide to the diverse magnificences of American poetry today. It presents a wide range of poems selected by Burt for this volume, each accompanied by an original essay explaining how a given poem works, why it matters, and how the poem speaks to other parts of art and culture. Included here are some classroom classics (by Ashbery, Komunyakaa, Hass), less famous poems by very famous poets (Glück, Kay Ryan), and poems by prizewinning poets near the start of their careers (such as Brandon Som), and by others who are not—or not yet—well known.
The Poem Is You will appeal to poets, teachers, and students, but it is intended especially for readers who want to learn more about contemporary American poetry but who have not known where or how to start. It describes what American poets have fashioned for one another, and what they can give us today.
It is refreshing to find a book that gives equal weight and relish to avant-garde minimalism, New Formalism, and so many of the stations in between…The poems Burt selects would alone comprise a valuable anthology of the American poetry of its time, and [she] is an entertaining, thought-provoking and eager guide to them, keen to ask all the questions that occur to [her] in [her] reading, and to engage with the chicanery of thought it engenders. Each essay is obviously a product of enjoyment, and encourages us to treat poems with the same enthusiasm—to embrace difficulty and difference in exchange for the articulate and involved pleasure that poetry, of all the arts, can best provide.
[Burt] approaches a stunning variety of verse with the obsessiveness and knowledge of a scholar and a fan. Burt is an ideal guide for this trip through contemporary American poetry…Burt’s close readings are sharp and illuminating…The death of poetry has been proclaimed time and time again. But the sixty universes that Burt uncovers in these poems show us how alive poetry is, and how it needs to be read and appreciated for all its weirdness and cacophonous music…Whether you dip in and out of this book over months or read it all in a matter of days, it will help you pay better attention to the nuances, difficulties, identities, and music in American poetry…What comes through here is Burt's sheer, voracious love of contemporary poetry, and it's infectious. This book is a series of doors that all lead back to the poems themselves, and it will likely be used in classrooms across America. At least I hope so.
A fabulous guide…Each poem is introduced by an essay sketching out how it works, why it matters, how it speaks to the wider worlds of art and culture.
The Poem Is You is a collection of knowledgeable, useful and affectionately committed short essays on sixty recent poems by sixty American poets…[Burt writes with] unselfconscious erudition, light touch, even tone.
Throughout, the style of Burt’s writing is as relaxed and inviting as its content is trenchant and learned. If the sheer capaciousness of contemporary American poetry is one of its defining features, Burt’s achievement here is to have been an enviably capacious critic, responding to the event of each poem in labile and unpredictable ways.
Drawing on endlessly deep wells of enthusiasm and acuity, The Poem Is You offers not so much a sequence of explanations as a series of invitations: Burt is more intent on describing how to think about a particular poem than on telling us what to think. Unpredictable yet unfailingly useful, The Poem Is You is a joyous book.
This is a splendid book. Many critics and poets have published essays or reviews of contemporary poetry, but Burt is doing something else here. She lavishes the poems with extraordinarily nimble, alert, luminous attention. It’s hard to think of a better introduction to contemporary American poetry.
Poet and critic Burt’s ambitious anthology of recent poems by American authors, from 1981 to 2015, creates a coherent body of work out of the vast landscape of recent American poetry. Burt’s 60 selections are eclectic, mingling instantly recognizable names (John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich) with newer talents (Lucia Perillo, Claudia Rankine.)…Burt’s many ways of looking at a poem will inspire new students and accomplished poets, especially as many of [her] meditations circle the question of what poetry does, or should do: making readers pay attention, ask questions, and experience new things. Burt’s formidable breadth of knowledge about the practice of poetry, from Virgil up to 2015, allows [her] to make nimble connections among authors and establish an ars poetica for current American lyric poetry, an impressive feat given the diverse selection just within this book.
[Burt’s] critique is not only accessible to most all readers, but it also shows [her] depth of knowledge and love of American poetry. [Her] essays are very good at finding the meaning of the work while placing each poem in context within the landscape of poetry…This book is for anyone interested in the state of American poetry today.
- 432 pages
- 1-3/8 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.