Lauer and Melnick team up to present a poem apiece from 100 “younger” poets who’ve published in media ranging from Twitter to the New Yorker.
This cross section of contemporary poetry is promoted for grades nine and up, making no concessions to youth. The language and themes of a number of these selections are as adult as they come, probing suicide, mental illness, drug abuse, rape, racism, police brutality, AIDS and other cataclysmic life events, along with tamer reminiscences of home and more common rites of passage like heartbreak, sexual and recreational drug experimentation, and identity formation. The only direct appeal to younger readers is the hind quarter of the volume, which is devoted to brief biographies revealing humanizing yet beauty pageant–like trivia about each poet. Otherwise, the vast majority of these largely first-person free verse poems exhibits a modernist penchant for everyday detail, as in Travis Nichols’ “Testimonial”—“I knew, even when I found a piece / of tooth in my Sausage McMuffin, / I would surmount the poverty / and dullness of my youth”—or introspective attention to contemporaneity, as in Patricia Lockwood’s edgy “Rape Joke”—“You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost / anything you give it, and heals quickly.”
Incisive and occasionally brash, the selected works by these poets on the rise showcase the challenges of 21st-century living for readers who are ready for them. (Poetry. 14 & up)