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The Best American Poetry 2007

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Celebrated poet McHugh and renowned editor Lehman present the 20th edition of the popular and comprehensive Best American Poetry series.


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Celebrated poet McHugh and renowned editor Lehman present the 20th edition of the popular and comprehensive Best American Poetry series.

30 review for The Best American Poetry 2007

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan Jean Cronin

    Yes, I know I'm a little bit behind in my reading... Okay, so every year in Best American, without fail, one will find a good number of big names and at least a few poems from The New Yorker, Poetry, and other major publications. Some past guest eds leaned more in this direction than others, but there are usually--for me, anyway--enough surprises (with regard to both poets and journals) to make Best American a worthwhile read. Reading this edition, I felt as though Heather McHugh did a lazy job o Yes, I know I'm a little bit behind in my reading... Okay, so every year in Best American, without fail, one will find a good number of big names and at least a few poems from The New Yorker, Poetry, and other major publications. Some past guest eds leaned more in this direction than others, but there are usually--for me, anyway--enough surprises (with regard to both poets and journals) to make Best American a worthwhile read. Reading this edition, I felt as though Heather McHugh did a lazy job of making her selections. It seemed as though she used a narrow set of criteria. Poems that read like writing exercises predominate (authors' notes and McHugh's own intro confirm this); few of them work as anything more than that. Poems that address the current political climate also abound. A few really do add something essential to how we think about it (i.e. Brian Turner, Matthea Harvey), but too many want so badly to Make a Statement and end up sounding ephemeral and weak rather than timely and insightful. (I must confess, I believe putting the name George W. Bush in a poem makes the poem itself seem a lot less smart.) Furthermore, several journals were represented repeatedly--not that they aren't deserving of recognition, but consider how many other journals are out there... A few years ago in a grad poetry class, I had to read Best American and pick "the best of the best." I came up with this obsessive and nerdy ratings system to keep track of what I thought of each poem; I still use it for this purpose. I never really come up with one best poem, though if pressed, I'd say this volume's is Ed Ochester's "Voltaire at Cirey, 1736." Looking forward to the 2008 edition--I have high hopes that Charles Wright's picks will be great.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I hoped to like this more because Heather McHugh edited it...but I ultimately spent most of my time hoping for some more emotionally-charged poems, fewer topical poems, fewer information-filled poems. There were many I liked a great deal, but very few that blew me away. I also found myself wondering if / why there seemed to be quite a few more poets who had two poems in the anthology than I had ever seen before. Coincidental? I hope so.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Eh, it was alright. Louis Bourgeois "A Voice from the City," Matthew Byrne's "Let me Count the Ways," Linh Dinh's "A Super-Clean Country," Stephen Dunn's "Where He Found Himself," Matthea Harvey's "The Future of Terror/Terror of the Future," and Cody Walker's "Coulrophobia" win the prize. The last of which i'll reprint here: Neither clown was especially trustworthy--their pranks ranged from exploding pens to, in an ugly custody case, propped-up buckets of battery acid--but they were good company Eh, it was alright. Louis Bourgeois "A Voice from the City," Matthew Byrne's "Let me Count the Ways," Linh Dinh's "A Super-Clean Country," Stephen Dunn's "Where He Found Himself," Matthea Harvey's "The Future of Terror/Terror of the Future," and Cody Walker's "Coulrophobia" win the prize. The last of which i'll reprint here: Neither clown was especially trustworthy--their pranks ranged from exploding pens to, in an ugly custody case, propped-up buckets of battery acid--but they were good company and frankly I needed the laughs. I had just driven away another patient but not overly patient woman, and I was between jobs in the way that Catholics are between Messiahs. I had been trained in stock speculation, I was hoping to practice stock speculation again at some point, but I was preparing myself for a wait. So I started spending evenings--sometimes days and evenings--at the Vroom Room. The Vroom Room is a basement place in a part of Baltimore that i now associate almost entirely with abandoned tricycles, vomit and licorice. At that point the bar was something of a clown training ground--a place for the harder-drinking clowns to pad around in their size 24 shoes and reflect on their acts, aperitifs in easy reach. By 2a.m. they'd be hunched over the toilets--and, as none of the stalls had doors, the effect would be an EKG line of bobbing and vomiting clowns. I don't remember which clown I met first--Kicko, with his green snake wig and his "Rape Isn't Funny Unless You're Raping a Clown" T-shirt, or Laurence, whose raised eyebrows suggested a surprised stenographer. I don't remember how many times Laurence deadpanned the "Fuck you, clown!" joke, or how often Kicko recounted "The Aristocrats," with each new perversion more outlandish than the last. I remember the FBI raid, and the fun that the local newspapers and TV anchors had with the story. I remember how alone I felt afterward. I couldn't rinse the liqueur glasses free of grease paint. But this is me at my most impatient--always blowing the punch line, the relationship--speculating recklessly, hurrying ahead--the living embodiment of Kicko's favorite joke, which went (and God bless Kicko): 'I'm the world's greatest comedian, ask me the secret of my success.' 'OK, what's the secret of--' 'Timing.'

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tristan

    This was the most disappointing volume in the Best American Poetry series that I have read. While it did have some very good poems, most of the pieces were either dull or felt insufficiently poetic. Many of these poems were lacking in musicality and more than a few were lacking in sense--"Best Am Po" made absolutely no sense and in his note the poet claimed the piece was "ambitious". While strangeness and ambition are not mutually exclusive, the poem had neither sound nor coherent meaning going This was the most disappointing volume in the Best American Poetry series that I have read. While it did have some very good poems, most of the pieces were either dull or felt insufficiently poetic. Many of these poems were lacking in musicality and more than a few were lacking in sense--"Best Am Po" made absolutely no sense and in his note the poet claimed the piece was "ambitious". While strangeness and ambition are not mutually exclusive, the poem had neither sound nor coherent meaning going for it, unlike "Flu Song in Spanish" which was more sound than anything else and ended up being quite enjoyable and intriguing. This volumes guest editor, Heather McHugh, said in her introduction that she looked for humor and irreverence as an integral part of the nature of poetry, but many of these poems seemed to be irreverent to the point of senselessness. Billy Collins' contribution was very much guilty of this, and his work hinges on his lighthearted and ironic tone at its best. I couldn't find the poetic impetus behind a lot of this, and other items felt out of place. The excerpt from Angle of Yaw was one; I did not particularly like it as it seemed flat and not really lyrical (particularly annoying as it was a pair of prose poems), but I also felt that if I were to read all ninety prose poems that make up the book each of these fragments might have been both more musical and more meaningful in context. I did genuinely enjoy Denise Duhamel's "Language Police Report", Nicky Beer's "Still Life with Half-Turned Woman and Questions", Macgregor Card's "Duties of an English Foreign Secretary", Richard Kenney's "Augeries", Danielle Pafunda's "Dear Pearce & Pearce, Inc.", Marya Rosenberg's " 'If I Tell You You're Beautiful, Will You Report Me?': A West Point Haiku Series", Cody Walker's "Coulrophobia", and Kary Wayson's "Flu Song in Spanish", but ordinarily I have a list nearly this long and it is only part of the poems that I truly appreciated when I read one of these volumes. There were a couple other poems that were okay, but these were the only ones that were even solidly "good". I leave you with one of the "West Point Haiku"Springtime at West Point boys in combat boots, slipping on cherry blossoms.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bruce

    Each year I open the "Best American Poetry" series with a mixture of joy and dread. Some years--2005--are treasures of poetry that expands your mind and heart. Some years--like this one--seem to be dedicated to those poets who approach their work as if they were solving the quadratic equation. There are a few fine things in here...about six. Not a good percentage for a 200+ page book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn Lauer

    So far I'm disappointed as always. I find myself cringing that some of the poems were a. published in the first place and b. chosen by Heather McHugh for this series. Still disappointed. It was disappointing. I liked maybe 2 poems.

  7. 4 out of 5

    carolyn

    I always pick up this "best of" series from the library and usually find many poems that I love. This was the most disappointing year of the bunch though as there were only 2 or 3 poems that I enjoyed. meh

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gary McDowell

    This thing, as a whole and on a poem by poem basis, is always hit or miss. This year, it was more miss for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara Kearns

    'Disappointing. I thought maybe three or four poems out of the seventy-five were quite good.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jes

    A cross section of good, bad and ponderous.

  11. 4 out of 5

    B.

    Overall, I would give this collection a B average (technically an 85.8% avg.) as far as the quality of the poems contained. I know that attempting to quantify poetic effect/value is a ridiculous gesture, but I am simply a ridiculous person. Of course, this is purely based off of my own tastes and will not necessarily reflect your average satisfaction rate. Often times when I finish reading and assessing an entry of the Best American Poetry Series, I feel the weight of lofty themes, historical fig Overall, I would give this collection a B average (technically an 85.8% avg.) as far as the quality of the poems contained. I know that attempting to quantify poetic effect/value is a ridiculous gesture, but I am simply a ridiculous person. Of course, this is purely based off of my own tastes and will not necessarily reflect your average satisfaction rate. Often times when I finish reading and assessing an entry of the Best American Poetry Series, I feel the weight of lofty themes, historical figures, and literary minutiae. At times, I fear that the poets featured in the series (and therefore the guest editors) are not even thinking about accessibility. I am all for allusions and challenging reading, but there is a fine line between academic narcissism and essential poetry. This wannabe High Modernist chic (poets should take on the lessons of Eliot and Pound, not try to become them) is exactly what has turned the general reading population off of poetry. More often than not, many poets today simply forget to have fun in favor of obscuring their meaning and ideas for no reason other than to obscure their meaning and ideas. Luckily, Heather McHugh's selections for BAP 2007 are a much-needed reminder for poetry readers (and hopefully the general readership) that poetry doesn't have to be full of itself in order to be published. Many of McHugh's picks feature extended bouts of wordplay, a welcome refresher after the occasionally dour selections from BAps 2008 and 2009. An example of her sensibility for fun is Julie Larios' "What Bee Did": Bee not only buzzed. When swatted at, Bee deviled, Bee smirched. And when fuddled, like many of us, Bee labored, Bee reaved. He behaved as well as any Bee can have. Bee never lied. Bee never lated. And despite the fact Bee took, Bee also stowed. In love, Bee seiged. Bee seeched. Bee moaned, Bee sighed himself, Bee gat with his Beloved. And because Bee tokened summer (the one season we all, like Bee, must lieve) Bee also dazzled. McHugh prescribes not only a swathe of puns but also a steady dose of satire. Mark Halliday's "Best Am Po" (a poem that sounds an awful lot like a Best American Poetry explanatory note) shows that McHugh and I are of the same mind when it comes to the hilariously obscure pretentions that heavily academic poets lord over readers: The reader encountering these sections from my new long shtupfdin "Gnostic Balloon Clings to Baboon's Neck" may benefit from certain orientative "heads-ups. [...] The reader will notice how section 15 recapitulates Heidigger's critique of Lacan's "interior commodities" albeit in the voice of a Haitian prostitute." All in all, not all of the wordplay or satire bites quite as effectively as the two poems quoted above, but if you are at all interested in a lighter entry in the prolific series, you could do much worse than taking BAP 2007 out for a spin. Masterpieces (9) Mike Dockins, Dead Critics Society Denise Duhamel, Language Police Report Stephen Dunn, Where He Found Himself Albert Goldbarth, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Mark Halliday, Best Am Po Galway Kinnell, Hide-and-Seek, 1933 Julie Larios, What Bee Did Brad Leithauser, A Good List David Shumate, Drawing Jesus Masterful (9) Marvin Bell, The Method Louis E. Bourgeois, A Voice from the City Billy Collins, The News Today Donald Hall, The Master Ed Ochester, Voltaire at Cirey, 1736 Marya Rosenberg, If I Tell You You're Beautiful, Will You Report Me?: A West Point Haiku Series Alan Shapiro, Country Western Singer Brian Turner, What Every Soldier Should Know Harriet Zinnes, Remiss Rebut Masters Candidates (8) Elaine Equi, Etudes Robert Hass, Bush's War Amit Majmudar, By Accident Sabrina Orah Mark, The 10 Stages of Beatrice Leslie Adrienne Miller, On Leonardo's Drawings Susan Parr, Swooping Actuarial Fauna and Ecstatic Cling Carmine Starnino, Money Kary Wayson, Flu Song in Spanish Overall, I would absolutely to highly recommend approx. 37% of the poems contained in this volume.

  12. 4 out of 5

    C

    I didn't expect to like this volume as much because my taste in poetry tends to skew more towards the narrative "confessional" schools rather than the "language" school that Heather Mchugh comes from. I was pleasantly surprised, though. There is a good broad range of voices here, many of which are younger than tend to appear in the BAP series. My favorite poem overall was probably Robert Hass' "Bush's War." All of that being said, however, I did think there were definite issues with this volume. I didn't expect to like this volume as much because my taste in poetry tends to skew more towards the narrative "confessional" schools rather than the "language" school that Heather Mchugh comes from. I was pleasantly surprised, though. There is a good broad range of voices here, many of which are younger than tend to appear in the BAP series. My favorite poem overall was probably Robert Hass' "Bush's War." All of that being said, however, I did think there were definite issues with this volume. I find it odd that she chose several poets to have multiple poems included. I don't think I have ever seen this in a Best American volume (working from my crappy memory here... I could be wrong) and I find it hard to believe that viewing all of the poetry from one year, a single poet should be able to be included twice. Also, so many of the poems seem to be so obsessed with clever wordplay, that they come across more cold/calculating than clever in the end. I wanted to give this a 3 star review, but the poems that I liked were too good for me to drop it a star. I'll be buying several books based on authors I met in this volume. That's a good thing and the reason, in my opinion, for the existence of this series.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    As with others in this series, a mixed bag. Some gems, some duds. Unlike some other reviewers, I don't get to read much in the way of contemporary poetry, so this series is my primary source for what is going on now. For people who don't read those slender volumes by a single poet, this is a good, consistent source. Of particular interest: Brian Turner's "What Every Soldier Should Know," as good a war poem about the present conflict as one could ask for, and Marilyn Nelson's "Etymology," a fine s As with others in this series, a mixed bag. Some gems, some duds. Unlike some other reviewers, I don't get to read much in the way of contemporary poetry, so this series is my primary source for what is going on now. For people who don't read those slender volumes by a single poet, this is a good, consistent source. Of particular interest: Brian Turner's "What Every Soldier Should Know," as good a war poem about the present conflict as one could ask for, and Marilyn Nelson's "Etymology," a fine sonnet.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Juliet

    Didn't finish; awful for a Best collection. * Twenty some pages into this collection and I am pretty much despising it so far. Very disappointing. Most of the poetry strikes me as uninteresting, sing-songy, behind the times, and terribly unprovocative. If this is the best poetry of ANY recent year, then my poetic tastes are seriously out of whack and I'm gald they're out whack, because this poetry sucks. Hopefully, the situation will improve. I bookmarked right before a Denise Duhamel poem, so maybe Didn't finish; awful for a Best collection. * Twenty some pages into this collection and I am pretty much despising it so far. Very disappointing. Most of the poetry strikes me as uninteresting, sing-songy, behind the times, and terribly unprovocative. If this is the best poetry of ANY recent year, then my poetic tastes are seriously out of whack and I'm gald they're out whack, because this poetry sucks. Hopefully, the situation will improve. I bookmarked right before a Denise Duhamel poem, so maybe she'll turn it around.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter House

    This collection features not one but two (TWO!) beheadings. Overall, the book was decent with a few poems that resonated. I think it comes down to a matter of taste as I really enjoyed the 2006 edition. Some of the poems I enjoyed in this book are, "The Death of the Shah" by Frederick Seidel, "Archaic Fragment" by Louise Gluck (forgive the lack of umlaut), and "Continuous Bullets over Flattened Earth" by Linh Dinh. A number of poems that were printed in the Alaska Quarterly Review made it into t This collection features not one but two (TWO!) beheadings. Overall, the book was decent with a few poems that resonated. I think it comes down to a matter of taste as I really enjoyed the 2006 edition. Some of the poems I enjoyed in this book are, "The Death of the Shah" by Frederick Seidel, "Archaic Fragment" by Louise Gluck (forgive the lack of umlaut), and "Continuous Bullets over Flattened Earth" by Linh Dinh. A number of poems that were printed in the Alaska Quarterly Review made it into this collection and that's a good enough reason as any to read this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I'm not usually a fan of this series. I tend to prefer those slender individual books of poems to anthologies. But this year's Best American was quite a treat. It features a nice mix of poets, plenty I was familiar with, plenty I'd never heard of. And I enjoyed nearly every poem in here, even those by poets whose work I don't tend to like. Well worth the read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    beau

    So I've only read a couple - it's an anthology, neat-seeming editor ( Vowels (Christian Bök) loveless vessels we row solo love we see love solve loss else we see love sow woe selves we woo we lose losses we levee we owe we sell loose vows so we love less well so low so level wolves evolve So I've only read a couple - it's an anthology, neat-seeming editor (<3 hot wordplay), here's one I like (also, read Scumble) Vowels (Christian Bök) loveless vessels we row solo love we see love solve loss else we see love sow woe selves we woo we lose losses we levee we owe we sell loose vows so we love less well so low so level wolves evolve

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This year's edition guest edited by Heather McHugh...with local notables like Jeannette Allee, Kary Wayson, Susan Parr, and Richard Kenney inside! Throw in a little Sabrina Orah Mark and Ben Lerner and you've got yourself an amazing & exciting anthology. This year's edition guest edited by Heather McHugh...with local notables like Jeannette Allee, Kary Wayson, Susan Parr, and Richard Kenney inside! Throw in a little Sabrina Orah Mark and Ben Lerner and you've got yourself an amazing & exciting anthology.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    As Heather McHugh herself says in her introduction, "bestov, schmestov." Some good poems. The collection shows McHugh's taste for play with language.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brian Foley

    Not bad this year. It has Matthea Harvey.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    the f. seidel poem is #1. the west point haikus are also great. a lot of twee.

  22. 5 out of 5

    jim

    Some fantastic poems in this one. I like it perhaps better than any other in the series.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Wylder

    I tagged about a dozen poems that I liked... out of the 170 or so pages of poetry in 2007's offering. Somehow, that doesn't seem like enough.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    It is a "Best Of..." book and most of the poems are excellent, but not all of them. So you only get 4 stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Just trying to learn about poetry...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    Aside from some haikus by a West Point student, a group of vapid poems. If this is a selection of the best, I shudder to think of the worst.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    Favorite: Peep Show by Meghan O'Roarke

  28. 5 out of 5

    Traci

    This is just another reason not to go to work!

  29. 5 out of 5

    SmarterLilac

    Really, really like this installment. The editor got creative (and rebellious) with the selections, making this one of the more original editions in the series.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Derick

    The BAP series is great. Get them...you'll love it.

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