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Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology

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Postmodern American Poetry provides a deep and wide selection-411 poems by 103 poets-of the major poets and movements of the late twentieth century. Included are the leading Beat and New York School poets, the Projectivists, and "Deep Image" poets. Included, too, is the rich array of poetry written since 1975-language and performance poetry, the work of African American, Postmodern American Poetry provides a deep and wide selection-411 poems by 103 poets-of the major poets and movements of the late twentieth century. Included are the leading Beat and New York School poets, the Projectivists, and "Deep Image" poets. Included, too, is the rich array of poetry written since 1975-language and performance poetry, the work of African American, Hispanic, Asian American, gay and lesbian, and women experimentalists. In addition, a final section of poetics-with writings by Frank O Hara, Denise Levertov, Jerome Rothenberg, Amiri Baraka, and Charles Bernstein, among others-provides valuable contexts for reading the poems.


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Postmodern American Poetry provides a deep and wide selection-411 poems by 103 poets-of the major poets and movements of the late twentieth century. Included are the leading Beat and New York School poets, the Projectivists, and "Deep Image" poets. Included, too, is the rich array of poetry written since 1975-language and performance poetry, the work of African American, Postmodern American Poetry provides a deep and wide selection-411 poems by 103 poets-of the major poets and movements of the late twentieth century. Included are the leading Beat and New York School poets, the Projectivists, and "Deep Image" poets. Included, too, is the rich array of poetry written since 1975-language and performance poetry, the work of African American, Hispanic, Asian American, gay and lesbian, and women experimentalists. In addition, a final section of poetics-with writings by Frank O Hara, Denise Levertov, Jerome Rothenberg, Amiri Baraka, and Charles Bernstein, among others-provides valuable contexts for reading the poems.

30 review for Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I won't go so far as to say that I wish Paul Hoover could take back the second edition to his seminal first edition of Postmodern American Poetry, because there are many treasures to be found in this book for those who care to look, but I am glad that the first edition is still in print. The first thing I did when I picked this book up at my library was to check that some of my favorite poems were still included and I pored over the list of poets to see who had been added. I am pleased to say that I won't go so far as to say that I wish Paul Hoover could take back the second edition to his seminal first edition of Postmodern American Poetry, because there are many treasures to be found in this book for those who care to look, but I am glad that the first edition is still in print. The first thing I did when I picked this book up at my library was to check that some of my favorite poems were still included and I pored over the list of poets to see who had been added. I am pleased to say that most of my favorites from the first edition are still intact--with a few notable exceptions. I loved the excerpt from John Ashbery's Flow Chart that Hoover included in the first edition. I do understand and respect that Hoover wanted to update the Ashbery selection to include his most recent volumes. And, thank goodness, the heart-wrenching "How Much Longer Will I Be Able to Inhabit the Divine Sepulcher..." is still included. As far as the new poets that were added, I'm a bit at a loss. Good to see G.C. Waldrep, but why no Mary Jo Bang? In his well-written introduction, Hoover explains that these contemporary poets are not so much postmodernists (how could they be?) but postlanguage poets. Postlanguage poets Hoover divides into three three distinct schools: Newlipo, conceptual poetry and cyberpoetry. This immediately made me wonder why Hoover did not produce a Postlanguage anthology instead of sticking new, untested poets into a second edition of Postmodern. Hoover acknowledges American Hybrid, the 2009 anthology edited by poets David St. John and Cole Swensen. That anthology proposed (correctly, I think) that the long-acknowledged "fundamental division" between experimental and traditional is disappearing in American poetry in favor of hybrid approaches that blend trends from accessible lyricism to linguistic exploration. Hoover admires this approach, but he doesn't accept it. With all due respect, Hoover's insistence of the avant-garde as something outside the ordinary seems a bit like a dreamer fighting windmills. Hoover does some things right, like acknowledging how Fanny Howe and Rae Armantrout have--finally, in their long careers--become role models for the new generation. A highly positive development! The book still packs immense power in the first half where we see the brazen, brilliant, still revolutionary poets who wrote in the shadows of the great Modernists (T.S. Eliot, et al.), many of whom became legends themselves--Ginsberg, Snyder, O'Hara, Creeley, Levertov, Baraka. What a delicious difference from "The Waste Land" Frank O'Hara's "Ave Maria" must have been. The latter poem begins: Mothers of America let your kids go to the movies! get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to it's true that fresh air is good for the body but what about the soul that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rodney

    We owe a debt to Paul Hoover for whatever punishing politics he went through to get this past Norton, then survive in the Balkans of small press poetry. I remember the jolt I first felt to see poets here that I’d never have imagined Nortonized: Joe Ceravolo, Hannah Weiner, John Godfrey, Barbara Guest, Bernadette Mayer, Ray DiPalma, Kathleen Fraser, Kenward Elmslie, Diane Wakoski, John Weiners, Diane Di Prima, and Amiri Baraka, to name a very few. With word of a new edition under weigh though, We owe a debt to Paul Hoover for whatever punishing politics he went through to get this past Norton, then survive in the Balkans of small press poetry. I remember the jolt I first felt to see poets here that I’d never have imagined Nortonized: Joe Ceravolo, Hannah Weiner, John Godfrey, Barbara Guest, Bernadette Mayer, Ray DiPalma, Kathleen Fraser, Kenward Elmslie, Diane Wakoski, John Weiners, Diane Di Prima, and Amiri Baraka, to name a very few. With word of a new edition under weigh though, Hoover still with his hand on the tiller almost two decades later, I pulled this off the shelf to see how well it holds up, and to guess where the updates might come. It was duller than I remembered, a function in part of how many of its poets were still mid-career, not in full flower; in part of the mandate to be representative and pretend like the Balkans were steppes. Many avant-gardists, pushing against the standard anthologized lyric as they do, don’t excerpt well, and the potted bios that set them up, while skillful and fair, can’t do justice to the swerves that bring a poet to her forms. (They also replicate a Romantic idea of poetry as a procession of separate gifted individuals, each with his or her own unique voice, which much of the history of experimental poetry and the scenes it comes out of undercuts both in theory and praxis.) I wondered in the end if “postmodern” and “Norton anthology” were ever really meant to share a title page, if the one’s understanding of poetry interferes with the other’s to the point that we’re left with the signal cleaned of the noise. I guess this slipped some outsiders into colleges, but 20 years on and with everyone a Google search away, who but the folks down in Sales and Marketing can say with a straight face that was totally a good thing?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Dunn

    The most important collection of poems I own. I bought this just as I was turning on to poetry, and I felt like every poet inspired me in different ways. The editor did an excellent job showcasing the best poems of each poet. And what I appreciated about it most is the detailed history of American poetry after WWII. It gave me the foundation of my knowledge of the influential schools at work---mainly the Beat poets, the New York School poets, and the Black Mountain poets. For me, this anthology The most important collection of poems I own. I bought this just as I was turning on to poetry, and I felt like every poet inspired me in different ways. The editor did an excellent job showcasing the best poems of each poet. And what I appreciated about it most is the detailed history of American poetry after WWII. It gave me the foundation of my knowledge of the influential schools at work---mainly the Beat poets, the New York School poets, and the Black Mountain poets. For me, this anthology proved to be a launching pad into the world of poetry, and I am very grateful to have discovered it when I did.

  4. 4 out of 5

    tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE

    How long did it take me to read this?! Uh, let's see, there was that friendly brontosaurus that flipped the pages for me after the T-Rex injured my hand (close call) - it's been awhile. 106 poets w/ a few poems from each, an ending section of "poetics" essays.. & I'm going to try to write a capsule review?! Fool. I've never read an entire Norton Anthology before (that I recall). I mainly associate them w/ being a type of massive 'definitiveness' that's acceptable to academia. The Norton How long did it take me to read this?! Uh, let's see, there was that friendly brontosaurus that flipped the pages for me after the T-Rex injured my hand (close call) - it's been awhile. 106 poets w/ a few poems from each, an ending section of "poetics" essays.. & I'm going to try to write a capsule review?! Fool. I've never read an entire Norton Anthology before (that I recall). I mainly associate them w/ being a type of massive 'definitiveness' that's acceptable to academia. The Norton Poetry Anthologies having been college texts of sorts for decades. I can see why. Serious effort was put into making this substantial & comprehensive but, of course, it's far from the latter. What exactly IS "Postmodern"? "American"? "Poetry"? In the introduction, Charles Olson is credited w/ using "postmodern' in a letter on October 20, 1951. For the purposes of this bk, ""postmodern" means the historical period following World War II. [..] Postmodernist poetry is the avant-garde poetry of our time." The editor, Paul Hoover, is certainly a scholar & I'm sure he thought long & hard about who to include here. I'm sure he reads alotof poetry & alotof poetry criticism. I'm also sure he only reads w/in his particular academic ghetto. For "avant-garde poetry of our time" there sure is alot missing! Essentially, there's NO concrete or visual poetry. Right there, the editor's (or Norton's) bias against such things is pretty obvious. Each poet's section begins w/ a brief bio. These are little more than CVs. I learned things from them but.. who wrote them? The poets? The editor? They're so cut & dry, they reek of lack of imagination. Whenever I'm asked for a bio for some publication I try to have fun w/ it, these bios are like something written by poets applying for jobs in the pantheon of the canonized. At least I learned that Ron Silliman is a prison activist. Too much of the bios are about where these people went to school. Occassionally, someone's more 'street-wise' existence shines thru. Thank GAWD! This is a compilation mostly by academics & for academics. There's good writing in here (whatever that means) but it's mostly 'good' academic writing - meaning there's a whole world out there that's conspicuously absent. & what the fuck DOES "postmodern" mean, anyway? Here, it's an umbrella term. But it's an umbrella term that's acceptable for a Norton Anthology b/c it has the appearance of being scholarly. You're probably not going to hear the garbage pick-up folks talking about their new postmodern garbage truck, right? I mean if the garbage collectors get a new truck, it's a new truck, if (pseudo-)scholars get a new umbrella term it's "postmodern". So, postmodern keeps it all in the right class. I remember when I 1st came across the term, maybe in the late 1970s, maybe the early 1980s, I was annoyed by the desperate new low that (pseudo-)theorists had come to. AT least "neoism" has a sense of humor: it's a prefix & a suffix w/ nothing in between. I mean, isn't/wasn't "modernism" just intended to mean "contemporary" &, therefore, just a cultural form responding to present conditions rather than being rooted in possibly outmoded traditions? W/ that in mind, the term post-modernism CD be pretty funny; it cd be, like neo-ism, yet-another term that plays off futurism & modernism - Postmodernism is Modernism's Future TODAY! Buy now, get yesterday for free. Whatever. Many of the writers here are 'language poets' & that's partially why I decided to read this whole thing. But, lardy, reading it makes me realize how much of this theory I'd written off as specious by the time I was in my twenties. Bob Perelman's bio includes: "Quoting the linguist Noam Chomsky, Perelman writes, "Question: How do you tell a language from a dialect? Answer: A language is a dialect that has an army and a navy." Does 'language poetry' have an army & a navy? Maybe after being in a Norton Anthology it will. At least a few of the poets are anarchists: John Cage, Jackson MacLow. Barrett Watten's intro includes: "Thus the purpose of a work of art is not self-expression, but rather an "anarchy of production" that makes for more democratic relations between author and reader." It's this 'democratizing' of reader/writer relations that always seemed central to 'language writing' discussion. I'm not sure I 'believe' in it. IE: I'm not sure that I think that the various strategies taken to generate a more active reading, a less dominated one, are anything other than wishful thinking - including my own wishful thinking. Anyway, I enjoyed some of the writing. Frank O'Hara seems like he wd've been fun to get drunk w/. A Bernadette Mayer poem gave me a hard-on (always wanted to meet her - I liked her bk about fasting). Some of Silliman & Andrews had a playfulness that I wasn't expecting. But then I got to the "Poetics" section. This reminded me bigtime of why, when I was writing my 1st bk, I decided that my 'philosophy' was that "I had a philosophy once" & why I've (more or less) never written a manifesto. So many people have written so many things about the why & how & what they're trying to accomplish. I like reading it but it all seems so ridiculous sometimes. Charles Olson's very influencial proclamations about breath & line & so forth & so on are neither here nor there to me. Or maybe they're THERE & I want them to stay THEIR. Even Cage, whose music I deeply appreciate, annoys me w/ his platitudes about nonintention & Suzuki & the Hindu perception of the purpose of the seasons & whatnot. 30 yrs ago I tormented myself to great & elaborate lengths trying to decide whether I shd be moral or immoral or amoral; trying to decide what philosophy I shd create to use as a guideline to push me into the most intense creativity. After I'd had enuf of that is when I decided that "I had a philosophy once" - meaning that I didn't have a philosophy & didn't need one. Of course, that's not exactly 'true', it's a way of evading pinning myself down, I certainly have a political philosophy, I certainly have creative preferences, blah, blah.. In the "Poetics" section here, it seems like most of the writers DO have a philosophy. It all seems so dead-end to me, even Cage. EXCEPT for Jerome Rothenberg. So much of what he had to say seemed to cut thru the bullshit. Maybe b/c it was more about the state of the world & an attempt to create a post-imperialist society. He didn't express it quite that way. Still, though, who am I to criticize?! This bk is a massive achievement. I wdn't recommend it over "America a Prophesy" & quite a few other ambitious poetry collections but it has its place. What I wonder is, though, what I wondered when I used to read "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" magazine: Is its place just in academia where people delude themselves that they're being revolutionaries while poor people still go to prison for bullshit reasons & professors still lead totally privileged lives?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jee Koh

    I've been ploughing through the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry, more out of a sense of obligation than anything. I am surprised, however, by the amount of pleasure I received. Sure, there were many things that I would not care to read again, but the poets that I would sue to know better were not a few. I still think Charles Olson is over-rated. John Cage I read with anthropological interest rather than aesthetic delight. Robert Duncan's mysticism is too hand-wavy for me; I am more I've been ploughing through the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry, more out of a sense of obligation than anything. I am surprised, however, by the amount of pleasure I received. Sure, there were many things that I would not care to read again, but the poets that I would sue to know better were not a few. I still think Charles Olson is over-rated. John Cage I read with anthropological interest rather than aesthetic delight. Robert Duncan's mysticism is too hand-wavy for me; I am more for Denise Levertov's "ecstatic Protestantism," as editor Paul Hoover puts it. "Illustrious Ancestors" and "Where Is the Angel?" bear re-reading. I am also drawn to Barbara Guest's lyricism. Her "Red Lilies" begins so practically: "Someone has remembered to dry the dishes;/they have taken the accident out of the stove," and ends with magical flight: "The paper folded like a napkin/other wings flew into the stone." Robert Creeley I find thin, despite of his musicality. The New York School has weathered very well. They are fun to read. James Schuyler's "The Crystal Lithium" is a beautiful and convincing nature poem. "Letter to a Friend: Who Is Nancy Daum?" is terrific, as is "Korean Mums." Kenneth Koch is sharp and funny. Jack Spicer I find pretentious, but I did enjoy his re-writes of the tales of Arthur's knights, Gawain and Percival. Frank O'Hara is a joy. John Ashbery I don't get most of the time. He gives me the feeling that I have been had. Larry Eigner's poetry is very spare, Japanese. He wrote what he observed from his wheelchair. Ed Dorn's "On the Debt My Mother Owed to Sears Roebuck" is very moving. Gregory Corso is a wild thing; witness "Last Night I Borrowed a Car." I have always liked Gary Snyder's "Riprap," and like here his homespun wisdom in "Hay for the Horses," "The Bath" and "Axe Handles." Amiri Baraka, who died this year, is all ideas. I enjoyed Susan Howe's This That but the poems in this anthology, not as much. The extracts from Lyn Hejinian's My Life drift pleasantly but do not seize nor excite. Nothing to hold the attention from Joan Retallack to Wanda Coleman. Ron Silliman cannot forget that he is a critic even in his poetry. I got more out of re-reading Mei-mei Berssenbrugge than the first time. The Language poets bore me to tears. Bin Ramke's long poem "The Ruined World" is compelling. I'd like to read more of his work. I don't like Eileen Myle's way of breaking lines into one or two words. I enjoyed John Yau's cinematic poems, and was tickled to read his poem about Singlish called "ing Grish." Myung Mi Kim's poetry does nothing for me, does nothing to me, whereas Mark McMorris' does. I like the tone of intimacy in his Letters to Michael. Yes, he does talk about grammar and the torque of syntax, but his poems are one person speaking (or writing) or another: "The wound cannot close; language is a formal exit/is what exits from the wound it documents." Of Kenneth Goldsmith and conceptual poetry, let me quote one avant-gardist against another. Drew Gardner, one of the "founders" of Flarf: "Conceptualism repeats gestures that were vetted and digested forty years ago in the art world and displays them in the poetry world virtually unchanged: it is a remake. Poetry is too out of it to notice. And thus Conceptualism hits an intellectual pitch. The intellectual pitch, it could be noted, of the art history professor" (in "Why Flarf Is Better Than Conceptualism"). I like what Elizabeth Willis wrote in her essay "The Arena in the Garden: Some Thoughts on the Late Lyric": "The language of progress tyrannizes poetry. . . . What's new is obsolete within seconds." Her poem "The Witch" is sexy, challenging and self-aware, permanent qualities of lyrical poetry. I hope she outlasts the noisy K. Silem Mohammad. Linh Dinh is another poet who turns his imagination to critical use. "Continuous Bullets Over Flattened Earth" is terrific, as are "Vocab Lab" and "Body Eats." They may sound didactic outwardly, but their inner voice is discovery. And I certainly want to read more Eleni Sikelianos. Christian Bök is one ingenious dude. Drew Gardner's Flarf poetry is good for a laugh, which is more than you can say for most of the poets in this anthology. "Chicks Dig War" is clever pastiche. The Black Mountain poets have their Black Mountain college. The Language poets have their University of California, Berkeley and their SUNY-Buffalo. There is a coterie formed of the alumni of Brown University too. Now, every avant-garde must develop from a coterie, if only for mutual support and encouragement. But I prefer the coteries that are not based around institutions like universities and do not transmit their doctrines in a classroom, but are rather informal networks of friendships. Whether they are the New York School or the Flarf group, a ridiculous joie de vivre survives in their verse.

  6. 5 out of 5

    jcg

    I found this volume a great adventure, introducing me to a number of poets I wasn't familiar with. I think the book does a good job of showing what is out there without overemphasizing a particular voice or poetic. Any anthology can be criticized for who is excluded; an anthology is only an introduction, it's an invitation to follow the poets in the book to discover the work of other, equally important, writers who weren't included but who share a similar poetic vision. It's not a closed volume, I found this volume a great adventure, introducing me to a number of poets I wasn't familiar with. I think the book does a good job of showing what is out there without overemphasizing a particular voice or poetic. Any anthology can be criticized for who is excluded; an anthology is only an introduction, it's an invitation to follow the poets in the book to discover the work of other, equally important, writers who weren't included but who share a similar poetic vision. It's not a closed volume, it's an open door. Not everyone will appreciate all the poets in the book, but that is the mark of a good editor, to be able to acknowledge important writing across a broad spectrum, not just the comfortable and familiar. This anthology is a vacation for the mind; you may run into some writers you don't like, but you will discover some interesting poets as well - they all add to the experience and expand our knowledge and understanding.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I found this a little difficult to rate, as I really liked some of the selected works, while absolutely hating others. So went with the 3 stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hours

    Jack spicer - jc

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard Magahiz

    I haven't read an entire Norton Anthology before but I thought I'd do just that. The 'Postmodern' in this anthology's title is still defining itself in reaction to poetry written in the earlier part of the twentieth century and in reaction to the different movements within itself - Black Mountain poetics, conceptualism, language poetry, flarf. Because of this, a reader who isn't an insider must necessarily spend a lot of time in bafflement at exactly what is going on within a poem, sometimes a I haven't read an entire Norton Anthology before but I thought I'd do just that. The 'Postmodern' in this anthology's title is still defining itself in reaction to poetry written in the earlier part of the twentieth century and in reaction to the different movements within itself - Black Mountain poetics, conceptualism, language poetry, flarf. Because of this, a reader who isn't an insider must necessarily spend a lot of time in bafflement at exactly what is going on within a poem, sometimes a confusion which is encouraged by the poet. But leafing through these examples of what's going on in the avant-garde you can collect some examples with appeal. The ones I noticed were by Robert Duncan, John Ashbery, Gary Snyder, Rosmarie Waldrop, Elaine Equi, Haryette Mullen, Peter Gizzi, Craig Dworkin, and Noelle Kocot. It will be interesting to see what this might become in another two or three decades. Will it be a paper volume of upwards of 700 pages like the one I read?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karlo Mikhail

    To call all of the poetry in this collection postmodern is a big misnomer. But unsurprising given that the term has become a catch-all adjective for almost anything avant-garde. Regardless of this minor quibble, I would say the anthology can serve as a good introduction to contemporary (and particularly difficult) American trends in poetry.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Good anthology but it didn't have a lot of what I would call the best poems by included authors. The selection amounts were also a bit too widely varied. Good for readers to new this area of poetry, but if you have specific opinions about authors, the selections might leave you cold.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Book Child

    valuable coffee table flicker-througher

  13. 5 out of 5

    Madison

    Yes, it's a Norton Anthology, but still (for me) an indispensable resource in understanding the recent history and breadth of avant garde poets informing the possible in contemporary American poetry.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Peter Croft

    A couple of decades behind the times, but an essential read if you want to look at post WWII American poetry. The introduction is top shelf as well.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I've had this book since my senior year of college. I've never stopped reading from it. It's too massive to finish for one!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mendi

    I bought this recently in an airport bookstore. Can't wait to dig in.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    811.5408 P8584 2013

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eli

    Excellent introduction to contemporary poetry. Contains selections from a lot of big names (Ginsburg,Bukowski, Ashberry) as well a lot of less known poets.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mikhaila

  21. 5 out of 5

    K.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Josephine Wajer-Busch

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carl

  24. 5 out of 5

    Greg Lehman

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zachery Brasier

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Monica Lauser

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bo

  30. 5 out of 5

    thewarinkansas

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