Thursday, March 6, 2008

My New Anthology

My new new book (after my recent essay collection, Orpheus in the Bronx), Lyric Postmodernisms: An Anthology of Contemporary Innovative Poetries, has recently been published by the new and small but quite excellent Counterpath Press, who have published books by Laynie Browne, Brian Henry, and Andrew Joron, among others.

Marjorie Perloff writes of the book that "Like the best of museum curators, Reginald Shepherd has trusted his own poet’s eye and ear in assembling poems by twenty-three of our best (mostly younger) poets—poets not usually linked, belonging, as they do, to different schools and movements. From Rosmarie Waldrop’s ironic prose poems ('I gave up stress for distress') to Cole Swensen’s elegant ekphrastic prose, from C. S. Giscombe’s minimalist geographies to Susan Stewart’s resonant mythic landscapes, the dominant impression—rare today—produced by this lyric assemblage is that of quality—the sure hand of those who have mastered their craft and can therefore Make It New. This is a truly exciting and memorable anthology!"

Charles Altieri writes that “All the anthologies of contemporary poetry I know are far too generous. They seem incapable of excluding almost anyone who has gained any reputation, and then they have to compensate for their breadth by such scanty selections there is no possibility of depth. Not so with Reginald Shepherd’s Lyric Postmodernisms. Shepherd had the courage to select 23 poets—spanning two generations—then offer them enough space to provide statements on their aesthetics, display their range (including selections from long poems and uncollected texts). This anthology treats poets not just as makers of objects but as thinkers with visible and engaging projects, who bring lyric consciousness into almost every domain of active life. . . . Here 'lyric' can have its fullest meaning only if there are many more than one postmodernism, as Shepherd elaborates in his brilliant and concise introduction.”

I am grateful to them both for these generous and eloquent endorsements.

Lyric Postmodernisms gathers twenty-three established poets whose work crosses and transcends the boundaries between traditional lyric and avant-garde experimentation. Some have been publishing since the 1960s, some have emerged more recently, but all have been influential on newer generations of American poets. Many of these poets are usually not thought of together, being considered as members of different poetic camps, but they nonetheless participate in a common project of expanding the boundaries of what can be said and done in poetry. This anthology sheds new light on their work, creating a new constellation of contemporary American poetry.

These poets explore and discover new territories in the intersections between lyric enchantment and experimental investigation: they innovate and interrogate while still drawing upon and incorporating the lyric past and present; their critical art is also a celebration and renewal of the riches of the lyric tradition.

The book includes generous selections from each poet, so that a reader can get a sense of the writer’s work as a whole, and wherever possible I also include uncollected work that, even if published, might be difficult to track down. It is important to include a substantial representation of each poet’s work, rather than a cursory sampling, since it's often a poet’s other work that teaches us how to read any given poem of hers or his. I also include aesthetic statements from each contributor. Such statements, in which contributors discuss their work, their influences, their aims, and their poetics, situate and provide points of entry for these diverse and complex poetries.

The book includes work by Bruce Beasley, Martine Bellen, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Gillian Conoley, Kathleen Fraser, Forrest Gander, C. S. Giscombe, Peter Gizzi, Brenda Hillman, Claudia Keelan, Timothy Liu, Nathaniel Mackey, Suzanne Paola, Bin Ramke, Donald Revell, Martha Ronk, Aaron Shurin, Carol Snow, Susan Stewart, Cole Swensen, Rosmarie Waldrop, Marjorie Welish, and Elizabeth Willis.

I encourage anyone interested in "that kind of poetry" (whatever labels one chooses or refuses for it) to take a look at this book.