Some thoughts on anthologies and conflicts

by on Nov.17, 2013

I’m reading an anthology called “American Poetry: The Next Generation” and I think it’s very bad because of the pervasive quietist aesthetic and because of how the curating makes everything – even by poets who might otherwise write differently – into the same reflective-personal tone and narrative mode; but most of all (and this is related to the previous two) because the way it makes American poetry into something so incredibly homogenous. I’m horrified to think that this book is being used in classrooms!

Are there any anthologies of contemporary poetry that lets in the conflicts and disagreements of contemporary poetry? Aren’t anthologies for teaching? Then it seems that they’re doing an incredible disservice by suggesting that all poets are the same and believe the same thing. I mean, I’m not looking for “inclusivity”, I’m really looking for a sense that one CAN believe differently, one can be at odds.

Can there be an anthology that doesn’t seek to avoid conflicts or synthesize them (like American hybrid) but actually lets the conflicts be part of what is american poetry?

Or do we not really need anthologies in the age of the Internet?

6 comments for this entry:
  1. Jim Goar

    Hi Johan,

    I was recently included in an anthology called Dear World and Everyone in it.

    From the Bloodaxe site: It is the first British anthology to attempt to define a generation through a properly representative cross-section of work and a fully collaborative editorial process.

    There is no attempt to flatten the work or to say or show how it is all the same. Maybe this is closer to what you are looking for?

  2. Jim Goar

    Sorry, Johannes. My brain was on Johan de Wit.

  3. rRoss Sélavy

    I’m not sure about US stuff, but Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 is pretty good.
    There’s also a lot of variety in Rothenberg and Joris’ anthologies, and the Rankine and Sewell ones, though probably not as much as you’re looking for.

  4. F.J. Bergmann

    Speaking of anthologies, what’s going on with this one: ?

  5. Jason Lester

    I think Paul Hoover’s Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry does a pretty good job of letting it all just hang out. He doesn’t always choose the most representative poems for the more canonical authors and maybe that’s kind of the point. Haven’t had a chance to check out the second edition that came out this summer. A lot of commentators people seem to think it’s more of a backslapping flarf party than a Hunger Games fight to the aesthetic death, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s true or not.

  6. Johannes

    You know I glanced through that in the same apartment and it struck me just as homogenous and boring as the anthology I am talking about in this post. I like Paul Hoover and I like the fact that he included some younger folks, but the selections were not the best and it was overall just as lacking in volatility as the quietist anthology. Not surprising since experimental poetry has become just as stale as quietism, just as adverse to different ideas. Well, not AS bad, but still, pretty bad (see Barrett Watten’s sexist freakout over Joyelle’s post about the kill list). I enjoyed the first edition when I read it 20 yrs ago, but I think it has all stale-ified. / Johannes