American poetry

A selection of Bill Knott’s life work—testimony of his enduring, “thorny genius” (Robert Pinsky)

Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
They will place my hands like this.
It will look as though I am flying into myself.

For half a century, Bill Knott’s brilliant, vaudevillian verse electrified the poetic form. Over his long career, he studiously avoided joining any one school of poetry, preferring instead to freewheel from French surrealism to the avant-garde and back again—experimenting relentlessly and refusing to embrace straightforward dialectics. Whether drawing from musings on romantic love or propaganda from the Vietnam War, Knott’s quintessential poems are alive with sensory activity, abiding by the pulse and impulse of a pure, restless emotion. This provocative, playful sensibility has ensured that his poems have a rare and unmistakable immediacy, effortlessly crystalizing thought in all its moods and tenses.

An essential contribution to American letters, I am Flying into Myself gathers a selection of Knott’s previous volumes of poetry, published between 1960 and 2004, as well as verse circulated online from 2005 until a few days before his death in 2014. His work—ranging from surrealistic wordplay to the anti-poem, sonnets, sestinas, and haikus—all convenes in this inventive and brilliant book, arranged by his friend the poet Thomas Lux, to showcase our American Rimbaud, one of the true poetic innovators of the last century.

I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960-2014 celebrates one of poetry’s most determined outsiders, a vitally important American poet richly deserving of a wider audience.

Nearly ninety years after its first publication, this celebratory edition of The Weary Blues reminds us of the stunning achievement of Langston Hughes, who was just twenty-four at its first appearance. Beginning with the opening “Proem” (prologue poem)—“I am a Negro: / Black as the night is black, / Black like the depths of my Africa”—Hughes spoke directly, intimately, and powerfully of the experiences of African Americans at a time when their voices were newly being heard in our literature. As the legendary Carl Van Vechten wrote in a brief introduction to the original 1926 edition, “His cabaret songs throb with the true jazz rhythm; his sea-pieces ache with a calm, melancholy lyricism; he cries bitterly from the heart of his race . . . Always, however, his stanzas are subjective, personal,” and, he concludes, they are the expression of “an essentially sensitive and subtly illusive nature.” That illusive nature darts among these early lines and begins to reveal itself, with precocious confidence and clarity.
 
In a new introduction to the work, the poet and editor Kevin Young suggests that Hughes from this very first moment is “celebrating, critiquing, and completing the American dream,” and that he manages to take Walt Whitman’s American “I” and write himself into it. We find here not only such classics as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and the great twentieth-century anthem that begins “I, too, sing America,” but also the poet’s shorter lyrics and fancies, which dream just as deeply. “Bring me all of your / Heart melodies,” the young Hughes offers, “That I may wrap them / In a blue cloud-cloth / Away from the too-rough fingers / Of the world.”
Mark Doty brings the vitality and imagination that illuminate his own work to his selections for the twenty-fifth volume in the Best American Poetry series. He has chosen poems of high moral earnestness and poems in a comic register; poems that tell stories and poems that test the boundaries of innovative composition. This landmark edition includes David Lehman’s keen look at American poetry in his foreword, Mark Doty’s gorgeous introduction, and notes from the poets revealing the germination of their work. Over the last twenty-five years, The Best American Poetry has become an annual rite of the poetry world, and this year’s anthology is a welcome and essential addition to the series.

SHERMAN ALEXIE * KAREN LEONA ANDERSON * RAE ARMANTROUT * JULIANNA BAGGOTT * DAVID BAKER * RICK BAROTt REGINALD DWAYNE BETTS * FRANK BIDART * BRUCE BOND * STEPHANIE BROWN * ANNE CARSON * JENNIFER CHANG * JOSEPH CHAPMAN * HEATHER CHRISTLE * HENRI COLE * BILLY COLLINS * PETER COOLEY * EDUARDO C. CORRAL * ERICA DAWSON * STEPHEN DUNN * ELAINE EQUI * ROBERT GIBB * KATHLEEN GRABER * AMY GLYNN GREACEN * JAMES ALLEN HALL * TERRANCE HAYES * STEVEN HEIGHTON * BRENDA HILLMAN * JANE HIRSHFIELD * RICHARD HOWARD * MARIE HOWE * AMORAK HUEY * JENNY JOHNSON * LAWRENCE JOSEPH * FADY JOUDAH * JOY KATZ * JAMES KIMBRELL * NOELLE KOCOT * MAXINE KUMIN * SARAH LINDSAY * AMIT MAJMUDAR * DAVID MASON * KERRIN McCADDEN * HONOR MOORE * MICHAEL MORSE * CAROL MUSKE-DUKES * ANGELO NIKOLOPOULOS * MARY OLIVER * STEVE ORLEN * ALICIA OSTRIKER * ERIC PANKEY * LUCIA PERILLO * ROBERT PINSKY * DEAN RADER * SPENCER REECE * PAISLEY REKDAL * MARY RUEFLE * DON RUSS * KAY RYAN * MARY JO SALTER * LYNNE SHARON SCHWARTZ * FREDERICK SEIDEL * BRENDA SHAUGHNESSY * PETER JAY SHIPPY * TRACY K. SMITH * BRUCE SNIDER * MARK STRAND * LARISSA SZPORLUK * DANIEL TOBIN * NATASHA TRETHEWEY * SUSAN WHEELER * FRANZ WRIGHT * DAVID YEZZI * DEAN YOUNG * KEVIN YOUNG
"Nikky Finney has been a fine poet much too long to say that this latest treasure is her promise coming into being. She exploded with so much talent with On Wings Made of Gauze and beautifully matured with Rice, yet Head Off & Split takes the promise of youth with the control of adulthood to bring her greatest exploration. Honest, searing, searching. We all, especially now, need this book of poems; we all, especially now, need this poet."---Nikki Giovanni, author of Bicycles

"Beginning with the sweepingly inclusive and powerful `Red Velvet,' a Middle Passage poem for our times, Nikky Finney takes the reader to a wonderfully alive world where the musical possibilities of language overflow with surprise and innovation. Finney has an ear to go along with the wildness of her imagination, which sweeps through history like a pair of wings. Her carefully modulated free verse is always purposeful in its desire to move the reader in a way that allows us intimate access to necessary observations about ourselves. These poems, in other words, have the power to save us."---Bruce Weigl, author of What Saves Us

"In Nikky Finney's Head Off & Split the beauty of language soars and saves us even as we skirt the raw edge of terror. And something rare and precious is restored, a light, a circling movement of the spirit. This is poetry to give thanks for."---Meena Alexander, author of Quickly Changing River

"No one opens a vein on the page with a sharper and more nuanced gathered set of senses than Nikky Finney. In Head Off & Split, she takes aim at the heart of American wrong-headedness with a sense of purpose and integrity not only respectful of, but fueled by, her own brand of multiple kinships and remembrance, a grand struggle-swagger of powerful literary inheritance."---Thomas Sayers Ellis, author of Skin, Inc.

"With Head Off & Split, Nikky Finney establishes herself as one of the most eloquent, urgent, fearless and necessary poets writing in America today. What makes this book as important as anything published in the last decade is the irresistible music, the formal dexterity and the imaginative leaps she makes with metaphor and language in these simply stunning poems. This is a very, very important achievement."---Kwame Dawes, author of Hope's Hospice
Poems in the Manner Of is an illuminating journey through centuries of writers who continue to influence new work today, including that of respected poet and series editor of The Best American Poetry David Lehman.

“Very few writers can actually shape how you see the world. David Lehman is such a writer,” says Robert Olen Butler. Now the Best American Poetry series editor and New School writing professor channels, translates, and imagines a collection of “poems in the manner of” Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, Rilke, William Carlos Williams, and more.

Lehman has been writing “poems in the manner of” for years, in homage to the poems and people that have left an impression, experimenting with styles and voices that have lingered in his mind. Finally, he has gathered these pieces, creating a striking book of poems that channels poets from Walt Whitman to Sylvia Plath and also calls upon jazz standards, Freudian questionnaires, and astrological profiles for inspiration.

Intelligent and sparkling, this is a great gift for poetry fans and a useful resource for creative writers. These are poems of wit and humor but also deep emotion and clear intelligence, informed by Lehman’s genuine and knowledgeable love of poetry and literature. From Catullus and Lady Murasaki to Wordsworth, Neruda, Virginia Woolf, W.H. Auden, and Charles Bukowski, Poems in the Manner Of shows how much life there is in poets of the past. And like Edward Hirsch’s How to Read a Poem and Robert Pinsky’s Singing School, this book gives you more than poetry. Whether you’re reading for pure enjoyment or examining how a poet can use references and influences in their own work, Poems in the Manner Of is a treasure trove of literary pleasures and food for thought.
"A heady, infectious celebration."—The New Yorker

"Shaughnessy's voice is smart, sexy, self-aware, hip . . . consistently wry, and ever savvy."—Harvard Review

Brenda Shaughnessy's heartrending third collection explores dark subjects—trauma, childbirth, loss of faith—and stark questions: What is the use of pain and grief? Is there another dimension in which our suffering might be transformed? Can we change ourselves? Yearning for new gods, new worlds, and new rules, she imagines a parallel existence in the galaxy of Andromeda.

From "Our Andromeda":

Cal, faster than the lightest light,
so much faster than love,
and our Andromeda, that dream,

I can feel it living in us like we
are its home. Like it remembers us
from its own childhood.

Oh, maybe, Cal, we are home,
if God will let us live here,
with Andromeda inside us,

doesn't it seem we belong?

Now and then, will you help me belong
here, in this place where you became

my child, and I your mother
out of some instant of mystery
of crash and matter . . .

Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up in Southern California. She is the author of Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Interior with Sudden Joy (FSG, 1999). Shaughnessy’s poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Harper's, The Nation, The Rumpus, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son and daughter.

Here is the eagerly awaited new edition of The Oxford Book of American Poetry brought completely up to date and dramatically expanded by poet David Lehman. It is a rich, capacious volume, featuring the work of more than 200 poets-almost three times as many as the 1976 edition. With a succinct and often witty head note introducing each author, it is certain to become the definitive anthology of American poetry for our time. Lehman has gathered together all the works one would expect to find in a landmark collection of American poetry, from Whitman's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry to Stevens's The Idea of Order at Key West, and from Eliot's The Waste Land to Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. But equally important, the editor has significantly expanded the range of the anthology. The book includes not only writers born since the previous edition, but also many fine poets overlooked in earlier editions or little known in the past but highly deserving of attention. The anthology confers legitimacy on the Objectivist poets; the so-called Proletariat poets of the 1930s; famous poets who fell into neglect or were the victims of critical backlash (Edna St. Vincent Millay); poets whose true worth has only become clear with the passing of time (Weldon Kees). Among poets missing from Richard Ellmann's 1976 volume but published here are W. H. Auden, Charles Bukowski, Donald Justice, Carolyn Kizer, Kenneth Koch, Stanley Kunitz, Emma Lazarus, Mina Loy, Howard Moss, Lorine Niedecker, George Oppen, James Schuyler, Elinor Wylie, and Louis Zukosky. Many more women are represented: outstanding poets such as Josephine Jacobsen, Josephine Miles, May Swenson. Numerous African-American poets receive their due, and unexpected figures such as the musicians Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Robert Johnson have a place in this important work. This stunning collection redefines the great canon of American poetry from its origins in the 17th century right up to the present. It is a must-have anthology for anyone interested in American literature and a book that is sure to be consulted, debated, and treasured for years to come.
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