Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I spent yesterday evening finally reading some of Best American Poetry 2006, which I bought last fall. And this morning first thing I did was order two books by foreign poets. I guess it is kind of a statement, although I didn’t connect the two at first.

I don’t mean to be snarky – I enjoyed a number of poems in BAP. I read more today. Of those (about 40 of the 75), my favorites were, in order

Joy Katz’s “Just a Second Ago”
Mark Pawlak’s “The Sharper the Berry”
Christian Hawkey’s “Hour”
Megan Gannon’s “List of First Lines”
James Tate’s “The Loser”
Vijay Seshadri’s “Memoir”
Stephen Dobyns’ “Toward Some Bright Moment”

There were a number of poems I felt lukewarm about. For example, the Charles Simic and Franz Wright were in no way outstanding, though they are two of my favorite poets. Simic relies on image in his poetry, and I found the final image of “House of Cards” anti-climatic. I also felt that, though Franz Wright spends his life writing the same poem over and over (and I like that poem), the version in bap 2007 wasn’t that strong.

There were some that left me shaking my head like a pharisee. The “Briefcase of Sorrow” poem, for example, seemed gimmicky. And the Ilya Bernstein poem “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” didn’t do anything for me but give me a “so what?” kind of feeling.

I would really like to hear what folks thought about individual poems in this volume.

What I ordered:
Vanishing Lung Syndrome by Miroslav Holub
Night Mail by Novica Tadic

These are both part of the Field Translation Series, which is without exaggeration a service to mankind.


Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Overall, a weak volume in the series.

My favorites of the BAP series--
1992, ed. Charles Simic
1993, ed. Louise Gluck
1995, ed. Richard Howard
2000, ed. Rita Dove
2001, ed. Robert Hass

Andrew Shields said...

Go Sarah, support those translators! :-)

SarahJane said...

I'm sure the translators earn some miniscule amount of money for their efforts. Poetry isn't a big seller to begin with, and then you translate someone else's poems. Too bad there's so little thanks in it, and what would we do without Salamun, Heine, Vasko Popa, Ingeborg Bachman, Celan, Akhmatova, Rilke, Lorca, Neruda, Jimenez, Machado, Szymborska, Vallejo, all the chinese… etc usw.

Nice to hear the volumes you like. I don’t have a some of the earlier ones, like Simic’s and Gl├╝ck’s.

I went over to Ploughshares looking for some of the poems that were first published there, and was surprised many weren’t on the net, though Ploughshares puts pretty much everything on the net. I’m sorry about that. I don’t really like Maxine Kumin, for example, but my reading of her has been limited. And her poem wasn’t available at Ploughshares.

You would think it in the poet’s interest to have some poems floating around the internet so people could decide whether or not they want to read more of you. By forbidding your stuff to be posted, you cut off a potential audience. Oh well, maybe it’s my tough luck, but sounds more like theirs.


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