For my 10th National Poetry Month post, I wanted to write a brief review of one of my favorite anthologies, The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove. It is a beautifully constructed, encyclopedic tome consisting of some of the greatest poetic minds of the past century.
What sets it apart (from many other such anthologies) though, for me, is the wonderful introduction by Ms. Dove. She starts it with a letter to whom she refers as “T”, about what a “Sisyphean task” she was about to undertake. But, after reading it, one can state that Ms. Dove got the rock to the top of the mountain and left it there, securely, never to roll down again.
The rest of the 23 page introduction is a beautifully detailed, expertly written road map of the “how” and the “why” the anthology was put together. After finishing it, not only was I impressed and entertained, I knew I was in for a great experience.
The anthology is presented chronologically, but not, according to Ms. Dove “to corral poets into historical arenas but rather as a nod to the ineluctable influence of the quotidian”. It does just that; we see, over the decades, how poetry has changed and how it hasn’t, how timeless some work is, how other pieces are of their time and belong to that time only.
I was going to put several examples of my favorites, but decided on just three (from three points in the 20th century: early, middle, and late) to encourage you to get the book yourself, and find your own! 😉
“Fragment” – Angelina Weld Grimke
“Bag of Mice” – Nick Flynn
You can go here to get the book from Amazon.