Book of the Week #1

The Poets Laureate Anthology (in association with the Library of Congress) edited and with introductions by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt; foreword by Billy Collins (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010)

William McGuire wrote what may be the only history of the position of U.S. Poet Laureate, a book entitled Poetry's Catbird Seat. This volume tells this story in a different way.
"... this history is told for the first time by some of the very poems that distinguish these forty-three title holders. The anthology offers a generous sample of their work and provides a sweeping aerial view of the shifting ground of American poetry from 1937 to the present. Like any poetry colection, it can be read in any order according to each reader's whims--front to back, back to front, or dipped into anywhere--but editor Elizabeth Hun Schmidt's decision to put the poets in reverse chronological order encourages readers to begin with W. S. Merwin, holder of the office as of fall 2010, and move back in time, stepping plot by plot over the landscape of poetry, arriving finally at the verses of Joseph Auslander, the first to hold the post. This reversal of chronological order may remind readers that literature not only progresses, but it recedes; it moves forward toward an unknown future, but it also backpedals toward its origins." (Foreword by Billy Collins, p. xxxix-xl)
Each poet--including the five New Hampshire poets who have held the office--is introduced by their own thoughts on the office and a brief overview of their life and work. The selected poems include the famous ones and a few that might surprise you. For example, Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" shares a page with "Design," which terrified Lionel Trilling.

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