Anthologies are great resources when you’re stuck in a reading funk. They allow you to explore, wander, and discover without having to commit to a full book by a single author(or several full books by several authors). Though my college professors might shudder at the analogy, anthologies can be the book equivalent of speed dating. So for National Poetry Month, here are two relatively new poetry anthologies, to break you out of your reading funk; let you wander and make discoveries in the world of contemporary poetry; and introduce you to dozens of different authors.
Postmodern American Poetry: An Anthology: “Postmodern” is one of those terms that, through misuse and overuse has become essentially meaningless (As clever as it is, Moe from The Simpsons isn’t quite right when he describes it as “weird for the sake of weird,” but he’s not totally wrong either.) To me, it’s pretty simple; postmodernism is the literature that happens after and continues the humanist exploration of modernism, playing with not just what stories we tell, or what stories are worthy of literature, but how we tell stories. (And yes, sometimes those continuations end up as pretty weird books.) Collecting the legendary and the obscure, including some of my favorites like G.C. Waldrep, Charles Bernstein and Noah Eli Gordon, extracts from massive poems and tiny little grenades of verse, as well as essays on poetics and biographic sketches of the poets this anthology demonstrates the diversity of American poetry boiling just beneath the main stream.
The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral: Nature poetry has always been important to American literature. Quite often it is the only style or subject matter a lot of people are really aware of. As a nation of the frontier, whose core myths are based in the idea of carving civilization out of the virgin wild, our relationship to nature is central to our relationship with American culture. But nature is a lot stranger than we give it credit for. Evolution has allowed for a dizzying array of perplexing, amusing, and disturbing plants and animals. Furthermore, as society grew, our relationship to nature changed. Climate change and environmental activism. Genetic engineering and national parks. Ecotourism and localism. There was a time when “Nature in America,” could be captured in direct poems built on clear images, but now, “nature,” is just as weird as everything else in our society. The Arcadia Project captures that weirdness, demonstrating a range of pastoral poetry as interesting, diverse, and weird, as nature itself.
Maybe you’re thinking to yourself that you don’t actually like poetry. If so, there’s a chance you’ll find a lot to like in these anthologies. Specifically selected to showcase a wide range of styles, formats, and tastes beyond the mainstream, these anthologies show the true range of poetry as a mode of expression and could very well include reading experiences you’ve never associated with poetry. There’s more to modern poetry than Billy Collins and more to nature poetry than Mary Oliver.