Six American Poets and Eight American Poets
Editor: Joel Conarroe
Reviewed by: Carrie Byrd
Review posted: 4/23/04
I first encountered these anthologies when I was taking a class on American poetry as college student. My bookshelves are chockfull of poetry anthologies, but these are my favorites. And if you have one, you woe it to yourself to get the other, as they go hand in hand. They are not the most comprehensive, nor the most inclusive. Those of you looking for the tribe of American ex-pats whose names have come to represent American poetry (Iím looking at you, Gertrude Stein and e.e. cummings) are not represented here. Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Theodore Roethke, and Allan Ginsberg are some of the names youíll see.
Perhaps the reason I like these books so much is because the poetry contained in them is so accessible. This is not page after page of ďa rose is a roseĒ and variations thereof (Iím still looking at you Stein, and by the way, what were you smoking?) but real, open, language that invites you to indulge yourself in the lyricism that these poets were capable of attaining. Conarroe has chosen the best of the best, to my mind. Perhaps he chose only his favorites. He certainly chose my favorites. And from the best writers, he chose the best work. Not only their best-known poems, but lesser known, equally enjoyable ones.
The editorís voice is heard only a little, in the introductions. Each poet is introduced with a brief biography about his or her life. Not enough to distract from the poems, I think. You are not encouraged by the editor to layer meaning from their lives into their poems. I think that is one major advantage over many other anthologies. Conarroe is not tempted to guide you into an interpretation, but instead is content to let the poems stand on their own.
And so they do. These are poems you want to read aloud. I do read them aloud, even if itís only to an empty room, enjoying the sound of the poems that were so expertly assembled. I feel that Conarroe understands not only poetry, but also understands readers. These two books are fascinating, well presented and quite possibly, the best poetry anthologies youíll ever read. If you want to learn about and begin to understand poetry, there is no better place to start than here.