These “new” poets are indeed new: almost all of the 54 contributors included in these pages are either under 40 or have published a first book within the past five years. Any anthology of this sort is risky by definition; one would be hard-pressed to count 54 really good American poets in the entire 20th century, much less in the last decade. Predictably, therefore, the quality of the poems varies widely, with the worst offenders too willing to hide behind banalities disguised as insights. But the volume’s lovely surprise is that the strong poems far outnumber the weak. In general the writing is suffused with strangeness, originality, and, at times, pure genius. Collier, a poet and professor at the University of Maryland who also directs the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, has done an admirable job of opening the book to a broad range of styles and sensibilities. The result is an anthology that, rather than privileging something called a “realist” or “experimental” tradition, shows clearly how these young writers, whose short biographies tell tales of diverse influences and demographics, have embarked on the ambitious project of remapping the boundaries of American poetry itself. From the startling linguistic experiments of D.A. Powell and Mary Jo Bang to the sensitive formalism of Greg Williamson to the cool revelations of Pimone Triplett and Maurice Kilwein Guevara, this writing belies the stereotype of American poetry as moribund, instead making a convincing argument that it is as lively and rich as ever. As Olena Kalytiak Davis writes in “Sweet Reader, Flanneled and Tulled,” “Reader unmov’d and Reader unshaken, Reader unsedc’d / and unterrified, through the long-loud and the sweet-still / I creep toward you.”
These poets should not have to creep; readers should flock to their vibrant, exciting voices.