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Edited by the National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes, the foremost annual anthology of contemporary American poetry returns: “A ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). The first book of poetry that Terrance Hayes ever bought was the 1990 edition of The Best American Poetry, edited by Jorie Graham. Hayes was then an undergrad at a smal Edited by the National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes, the foremost annual anthology of contemporary American poetry returns: “A ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). The first book of poetry that Terrance Hayes ever bought was the 1990 edition of The Best American Poetry, edited by Jorie Graham. Hayes was then an undergrad at a small South Carolina college. He has since published four highly honored books of poetry, is a professor of poetry at the University of Pittsburgh, has appeared multiple times in the series, and is one of today’s most decorated poets. His brazen, restless poems capture the diversity of American culture with singular artistry, grappling with facile assumptions about identity and the complex repercussions of race history in this country. Always eagerly anticipated, the 2014 volume of The Best American Poetry begins with David Lehman’s “state-of-the-art” foreword followed by an inspired introduction from Terrance Hayes on his picks for the best American poems of the past year. Following the poems is the apparatus for which the series has won acclaim: notes from the poets about the writing of their poems.


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Edited by the National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes, the foremost annual anthology of contemporary American poetry returns: “A ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). The first book of poetry that Terrance Hayes ever bought was the 1990 edition of The Best American Poetry, edited by Jorie Graham. Hayes was then an undergrad at a smal Edited by the National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes, the foremost annual anthology of contemporary American poetry returns: “A ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). The first book of poetry that Terrance Hayes ever bought was the 1990 edition of The Best American Poetry, edited by Jorie Graham. Hayes was then an undergrad at a small South Carolina college. He has since published four highly honored books of poetry, is a professor of poetry at the University of Pittsburgh, has appeared multiple times in the series, and is one of today’s most decorated poets. His brazen, restless poems capture the diversity of American culture with singular artistry, grappling with facile assumptions about identity and the complex repercussions of race history in this country. Always eagerly anticipated, the 2014 volume of The Best American Poetry begins with David Lehman’s “state-of-the-art” foreword followed by an inspired introduction from Terrance Hayes on his picks for the best American poems of the past year. Following the poems is the apparatus for which the series has won acclaim: notes from the poets about the writing of their poems.

30 review for The Best American Poetry 2014

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    This suffered from comparison, because I read it at the same time as Matthea Harvey's Modern Life. Reading the latter was such a joyful experience; the language made me so goddamn happy. This book . . . eh, not so much. Of course there were exceptions. I loved Kathleen Graber's The River Twice, and Camille Dungy's Conspiracy (to breathe together), and Caconrad's wondering about our demise while driving to Dsneyland with abandon. I guess part of the point of anthologies is finding new poets to lo This suffered from comparison, because I read it at the same time as Matthea Harvey's Modern Life. Reading the latter was such a joyful experience; the language made me so goddamn happy. This book . . . eh, not so much. Of course there were exceptions. I loved Kathleen Graber's The River Twice, and Camille Dungy's Conspiracy (to breathe together), and Caconrad's wondering about our demise while driving to Dsneyland with abandon. I guess part of the point of anthologies is finding new poets to love, but overall this collection did feel very much like picking peas from the ashes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Lawrence

    So for my review of this year’s installment of the Best American Poetry, 2014, guest edited by Terrance Hayes, I thought I'd do something a bit different and just provide some select quick impressions I jotted down for each poem in a sort of journal-like way (not every poem, because it got too long for that and there is a character limit for these reviews -- which means this is too long!) I should say that I think Hayes brought a much needed energy to guest editing this year's volume, and I espe So for my review of this year’s installment of the Best American Poetry, 2014, guest edited by Terrance Hayes, I thought I'd do something a bit different and just provide some select quick impressions I jotted down for each poem in a sort of journal-like way (not every poem, because it got too long for that and there is a character limit for these reviews -- which means this is too long!) I should say that I think Hayes brought a much needed energy to guest editing this year's volume, and I especially appreciated his inclusion of young, black poets who all seemed to have crossed paths through the Cave Canem. Overall, I think this is one of the better volumes in this series, in my opinion -- up there with Doty's and Graham's guest edited volumes. Anyways, some observations: Sherman Alexie, “Sonnet, with Pride” – I consistently enjoy Alexie’s wry, intelligent writing, and thankfully our politics tend to coincide since he’s a very politically-oriented writer. Having said that, if the title of this prose weren't called “Sonnet,” I don’t think anyone would actual mistake this for a sonnet even if it does have 14 sections. So while his piece has lyrical elements, it can at most generously be called a prose poem but not a sonnet. Rae Armantrout, “Control” – Armantrout’s spare, minimalist, and skeptical aesthetic seems primed for a poem about Zen meditation, although this wasn't Buddhist in any meaningful sense. Not that she makes that claim. One of the more comprehensible poems I've read by her to date, although I admittedly am not very familiar with her work. John Ashbery, “Breezeway” – easy, breezy, Ashbery cheesy. Ashbery’s aesthetic, for me, is best captured in that famous scene from the film American Beauty where some kid videotapes a bag in the updraft of some passing wind and waxes lyrical. Or maybe the Family Guy parody of that scene where a woman is being mugged in the background crying for help as Peter Griffin records the bag and ruminates on beauty. Linda Bierds, “On Reflection” – I suspect Hayes has a real affinity for wry wit with an almost metaphysical bent. This is indeed a very witty pantoum (excellent form choice for a poem about the phenomenon of mirrored reflections.) I especially liked the line about how a mirror “always doubles the distance between you” and your reflection since space is mirrored too! Lucie Brock-Broido, “Bird, Singing” – whenever I read Brock-Broido’s poetry, I feel like I’m staring at a Medieval tapestry hanging on the walls of some cavernous museum only the figures on the tapestry have a blocky, pixilated look to them like videogame figures had in the 1990s. This poem doesn’t do much to change that impression. Jericho Brown, “Host” – I like this poem. I like its rhythm, I like how hip it is to the way we use social media to hook up in America, and I really like the spin it gives to contemporary American (esp. black) masculinity. It reminds me a bit of Terrance Hayes’ poetry (go figure!) Anne Carson, “A Fragment of Ibykos Translated 6 Ways” – I’ve already commented on this poem on Goodreads elsewhere; suffice it to say that I think Carson is one of our best living poets and a very spirited and thoughtful translator, so this poem was fun, smart, and often very graceful. Joseph Ceravolo, “Hidden Bird” – another posthumous poet. This is a very good poem I will return to and share with others, and I wonder if Ceravolo was thinking of Edward Thomas’ poem “The Unknown Bird” at all when he wrote it. Henri Cole, “City Horse” – Cole is a reliably good poet who has “deep images” running throughout most of his work. If you like a psychoanalytical approach to reading poetry, Cole is a poet you should check out. Michael Earl Craig, “The Helmet” – another prose poem, this one with American surrealistic qualities to it. Think James Tate but more youthful, more 21st century. Philip Dacey, “Julliard Cento Sonnet” – a real sonnet! And a good, sound one about music. I learned in the contributor’s comments section that Julliard gives free concerts on an almost daily basis when in session and often multiple concerts on the same day – it’s right down the street from me, so I will have to scout these concerts out. Olena Kalytiak Davis, “It Is to Have or Nothing” – a divorce poem. It mentions Louise Glück. Reads like a repressed scream. Mark Doty, “Deep Lane” – a couple years ago, Doty edited one of the better volumes in this series; it was exceptional in part because he included a number of young, African-American “emerging” poets (i.e. Hayes, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Tracy K. Smith, etc.). Doty himself has written a lot about death and mourning, and I certainly respect his perspective on these issues after having lived through the AIDS holocaust; but the tone of his poems gets a bit repetitive. This poem suffers from that repetitiveness, in my opinion. Rita Dove, “The Spring Cricket Repudiates His Parable of Negritude” – Dove clocks in with a fine poem of rhymed couplets. A little weird to think of Dove as a generation mentoring Hayes’ generation, but I imagine that’s how she is regarded by younger American poets now. Camille Dungy, “Conspiracy (to breathe together)” – a poetic mediation on motherhood and race in America. Reading it on the heels of Dove’s poem, I wish this poem had a bit more structure to it. Cornelius Eady, “Overturned” – another “elder” black poet in Dove’s generation; I started to read the “older” black poets in this volume in relationship with Hayes’ generation of younger black poets represented, to get a feel for any mentor-mentee differences (assuming such a relationship exists, which might be more than a bit presumptuous). Again, with that relationship in mind, I admire Eady’s lean use of rhythm and off-rhymes that give the poem a backbone to stand up with that I feel some of the younger poets in this volume could learn from. Ray Gonzalez, “One El Paso, Two El Paso” – good use of the couplet structure to reflect our disturbing border culture – each side so dependent upon one another, but also seemingly so divided from one another. A very layered poem that invites the reader to really ponder this poem long after turning to the next poem. Kathleen Graber, “The River Twice” – over the 20+ years reading these volumes, every once and a while I have come across a poem that makes me seek out the poet and read everything they’ve ever written. Graber’s poem included in this volume did that for me. This is a really beautiful poem, born from a very ordinary, everyday experience (going to a discount store) but reaching back deep into both the poetic as well as the philosophical traditions and making them feel very relevant to us here in the 21st century. And the poet accomplishes this with real grace and intelligence. I can’t wait to read more by Graber and have gone out and bought her volume, The Eternal City: Poems. Will definitely review it on Goodreads and hope it lives up to the high expectations this poem has created for me! Rosemary Griggs, “SCRIPT POEM” – not sure I consider this is a poem, but as a script it is very good. Has almost a Beckett quality to it. Maybe it would be impossible to perform on a stage except in our imagination. Bob Hicok, “Blue prints” – Hicok takes a break from his yucking it up to deliver this yawn. Le Hinton, “No Doubt About it (I Gotta Get Another Hat)” – this poem has an almost puzzle-like quality to it and is a memorable elegy for another poet with a light touch, but no less touching for that. Tony Hoagland, “Write Whiter” – I loathe the Jokester School of American Poetry (Hoagland, Hicok, Dean Young, and the king of the cats himself, Billy Collins). To read one of the gang write about race relations makes me want to punch him in the side of his neck. Major Jackson, “OK Cupid” – another riff on social dating, Major has ‘coded’ a very serviceable form with often hilarious results: “and dating a commercial is like dating a serial murderer/and dating a serial murderer is like dating Raskolnikov/and dating Raskolnikov is like dating a rationalist/and dating a rationalist is like dating an academic/and dating an academic like dating a CV/and dating a CV is like dating a white woman….” You get the idea – this poem could go on and on forever, and it nearly does. (But this at least is genuine humor arrived at in poetry and not the contrived slapstick shtick of the Jokester School.) Amaud Jamaul Johnson, “L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates Dead at 83” – a poem like this makes me ponder whether the “American” quality of a collection like this is incredibly provincial or can a thoroughly “American” poem like this have universal reverberations? Could a South Korean or a Turkish or a Tasmanian reader get what Johnson is doing in this poem, or is it culture specific to a time and place that I as a reader recognize but that’s only because I am basically in the same generation as Johnson and we’re both Americans? Douglas Kearney, “The Labor of Stagger Lee: Boar” – another musically themed poem. This one does employ more prosody, so knowing about Stagger Lee as a character is maybe not so important as knowing boar/pork to get the gist of what Kearney is singing about. Hard to resist a poem with this much swing! Hailey Leithauser, “In My Last Past Life” – Leithauser is very deft and masterful at using inherited forms like the villanelle as well as the English language – I really liked her debut volume; I’m not sure there is a lot of meat on the bone of this poem, though. Larry Levis, “Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze inside It” – another posthumous poet who seems to be enjoying a huge revival at the moment. This poem is another politics/religion focused poem, although Levis clearly is more interested in the politics of Marxism more so than going too deeply into the religion, unless Marxism is seen as a ‘religion’ trying to recreate a lost Eden to house us all. An interesting poem that I’d like to read in relation to his other poems. Patricia Lockwood, “Rape Joke” – wow. Not sure if this “prose poem” is a poem, but it is certainly a powerful piece of writing. I’d call it more a lyrical essay, but it is definitely one of the pieces that I imagine any reader of this volume will think about after they’ve set the book up on the shelf. Cate Marvin, “An Etiquette for Eyes” – sort of an updated version of Crystal Gayle’s song “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” I prefer Crystal Gayle’s song. Jamaal May, “Masticated Light” – every year, these anthologies juxtapose poems in a very serendipitous way even though the poets are presented alphabetically; so May’s poem appears right after Marvin’s and both are about eye-sight. I like May’s poem better in part because I believe he has actually suffered some eye impairment that gives the poem some real life rather than just a vehicle for poetic essaying. Valzhyna Mort, “Sylt I” – a very erotic but kind of creepy poem about a father taking his daughters to a nudist beach. Certainly makes me want to read more of Mort. Harryette Mullen, “Selection from Tanka Diary” – this is one of the best poems in the volume. Okay, it doesn’t really use tankas in a strict syllabic sense, but Mullen has an interesting rift on the tanka form in the contributors’ notes. The poet has an enviable ability to make serious sociological observations without ever sacrificing any music in her poems. Sharon Olds, “Stanley Kunitz Ode” – well, thankfully, she doesn’t mention Kunitz’s cock. Still, this being an Olds poem, she somehow manages to make this heartfelt elegy a bit vulgar. Gregory Pardlo, “Wishing Well” – I really want to like this poem because it has some really great lines and the overall quality as a “New York” poem is appealing; but there is something about a poem that tries to simulate a conversational tone with such tortured syntax, shifts in reference from third- to second-person, and just referring to e-cigarettes as an “e-cig” that makes me very wary of this poet. Kiki Petrosino, “Story Problem” – a post-modern instructional poem that grapples with the problem of having a convincing aesthetic behind it. Feels like I’ve read variations of this poem for the past 25 years, but I still liked it and re-read it a couple of times. D.A. Powell, “See You Later” – Powell has become for me something of the gay John Berryman writing the Dream Songs of the AIDS crisis/gay liberation movement of the 90s/00s. Like Berryman, it’s sometimes difficult for me to distinguish which of Powell’s poems are real stand-outs and which ones are just phoning it in. I do like the rhythm and internal rhymes in this poem. The poem got me thinking about the gay poets represented in this year’s anthology—Powell, Ashbery, Cole, Doty, and Myles all seem a bit dated whereas Jericho Brown’s poem seems so current to gay culture. (Or maybe that just reflects my being more familiar with the other poets and Brown being new to me?) Mary Ruefle, “Saga” – I really love the Icelandic sagas and so as this poem’s inspiration gave it a natural edge in my likelihood to appreciate it. As with so many of Ruefle’s poems, I end up scratching my head wondering if I just read something really good or not. Jon Sands, “Decoded” – this is one of those incredible poems that speak to the moment (it’s subject matter is the killing of Trayvon Martin) and Sands creates a form for himself here that likely can never really be repeated again with the same effectiveness. Its novelty is part of its strength as a poem. One of the highlights of this year’s selection that Hayes specifically mentions in his introduction, I imagine this poem will puzzle some readers but will inspire spirited readings. Steve Scafidi, “Thank You Lord for the Dark Ablaze” – for some reason, I kept imagining a meth addict reciting this poem/prayer. It’s got a hypnotic, high-velocity rhythm. It’s a very good poem. Frederick Seidel, “To Philip Roth, for His Eightieth” – so I truly think Seidel is one of the best poets of the last 25 years, but lately he has become a parody of himself. You expect him to be outrageous, louche, and more than slightly scandalizing (all the while maintaining a ho-hum air about him.) Here he enlists Roth and pantomimes misogyny but all in the service of a rhyme worthy of Ogden Nash. You get the picture because he’s shown it to us a hundred times before. (At least he didn’t mention Harvard in this poem, that’s always a relief!) Diane Seuss, “Free Beer” – ohh, this poem out-Seidels Seidel! Another wonderful serendipitous pairing! A very good, dark little poem. Sandra Simonds, “I Grade Online Humanities Tests” – I love it when American poets own up to being part of America’s poor/working class, but why is poverty in American poetry so consistently simulated with fu&^-ed up syntax? As though being poor is equivalent to being schizophrenic. I don’t think adjuncts are syntactically challenged or mentally ill – I think they’re just stressed out by poverty the same way fast food workers or mechanics are. But when Simonds starts discussing a James Franco poem, I have to admit I laughed out loud and really dug into this poem. Eleanor Wilner, “Sowing” – this a stand-out poem about (among other things) the Vietnam War. Excellent development of tone and narrative. Very memorable. Greg Wrenn, “Detainment” – well, I guess in the 21st century we will get a lot of terrorist-poet fantasies, this century’s unacknowledged legislators of the world. Rachel Zucker, “Mindful” – Zucker’s biographical note mentions immediately that she supposedly “…was born during a blizzard in New York City in 1971.” You would think from reading this poem that blizzard has never let up since then and still makes getting from place to place in the city nearly impossible! Well, like millions of others, I live and work in this city and I do not believe the number of transfers the speaker takes in the course of this poem. This is a poem about New York that plays to an imaginary speed/”chaos” of the city that outsiders have of NYC rather than the real lived experience of moving through this very navigable city.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peycho Kanev

    Patricia Lockwood, "Rape Joke" The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.” No offense. The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that Patricia Lockwood, "Rape Joke" The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.” No offense. The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth. Then suddenly you were older, but not very old at all. The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke. The rape joke is he was a bouncer, and kept people out for a living. Not you! The rape joke is that he carried a knife, and would show it to you, and would turn it over and over in his hands as if it were a book. He wasn’t threatening you, you understood. He just really liked his knife. The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity. How can a piece of knowledge be stupid? But of course you were so stupid. The rape joke is that sometimes he would tell you you were going on a date and then take you over to his best friend Peewee’s house and make you watch wrestling while they all got high. The rape joke is that his best friend was named Peewee. OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock. Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow. The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you. The rape joke is that his bookshelf was just a row of paperbacks about serial killers. You mistook this for an interest in history, and laboring under this misapprehension you once gave him a copy of Günter Grass’s My Century, which he never even tried to read. It gets funnier. The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it. The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography! The rape joke is that he was your father’s high-school student — your father taught World Religion. You helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year, and he let you take home the most beat-up textbooks. The rape joke is that he knew you when you were 12 years old. He once helped your family move two states over, and you drove from Cincinnati to St. Louis with him, all by yourselves, and he was kind to you, and you talked the whole way. He had chaw in his mouth the entire time, and you told him he was disgusting and he laughed, and spat the juice through his goatee into a Mountain Dew bottle. The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself. The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke. The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it. Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity. You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly. The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface. The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke. It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet. The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually. The rape joke is that after a while you weren’t crazy anymore, but close call, Miss Geography. The rape joke is that for the next five years all you did was write, and never about yourself, about anything else, about apples on the tree, about islands, dead poets and the worms that aerated them, and there was no warm body in what you wrote, it was elsewhere. The rape joke is that this is finally artless. The rape joke is that you do not write artlessly. The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you. The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati Ohio. Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question. Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends — haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way. The rape joke cries out for the right to be told. The rape joke is that this is just how it happened. The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny. Admit it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Peycho Kanev

    Rape Joke The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.” No offense. The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word “int Rape Joke The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.” No offense. The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word “interesting,” as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth. Then suddenly you were older, but not very old at all. The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke. The rape joke is he was a bouncer, and kept people out for a living. Not you! The rape joke is that he carried a knife, and would show it to you, and would turn it over and over in his hands as if it were a book. He wasn’t threatening you, you understood. He just really liked his knife. The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity. How can a piece of knowledge be stupid? But of course you were so stupid. The rape joke is that sometimes he would tell you you were going on a date and then take you over to his best friend Peewee’s house and make you watch wrestling while they all got high. The rape joke is that his best friend was named Peewee. OK, the rape joke is that he worshipped The Rock. Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow. The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you. The rape joke is that his bookshelf was just a row of paperbacks about serial killers. You mistook this for an interest in history, and laboring under this misapprehension you once gave him a copy of Günter Grass’s My Century, which he never even tried to read. It gets funnier. The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it. The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography! The rape joke is that he was your father’s high school student—your father taught World Religion. You helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year, and he let you take home the most beat-up textbooks. The rape joke is that he knew you when you were twelve years old. He once helped your family move two states over, and you drove from Cincinnati to St. Louis with him, all by yourselves, and he was kind to you, and you talked the whole way. He had chaw in his mouth the entire time, and you told him he was disgusting and he laughed, and spat the juice through his goatee into a Mountain Dew bottle. The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself. The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke. The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it. Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity. You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly. The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface. The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke. It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet. The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually. The rape joke is that after a while you weren’t crazy anymore, but close call, Miss Geography. The rape joke is that for the next five years all you did was write, and never about yourself, about anything else, about apples on the tree, about islands, dead poets and the worms that aerated them, and there was no warm body in what you wrote, it was elsewhere. The rape joke is that this is finally artless. The rape joke is that you do not write artlessly. The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you. The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati, Ohio. Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question. Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way. The rape joke cries out for the right to be told. The rape joke is that this is just how it happened. The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny. Admit it. Patricia Lockwood

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Of all the volumes that I've read, this one seems the most likely to actually introduce a reader to new voices. It has if not invigorated my faith in the series at least ensured that I'll give the 2015 edition a chance.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brad Hodges

    Once again I've taken a dangerous trip into the world of poetry, a land that I admit I have very bad footing in. This year the Best American Poetry series was edited by Terrance Hayes, who provides a lively introduction in the form of an "interview" with an academic, and we learn the interesting numerical correlation between the number of characters in a Tweet (140) and the number of lines in a sonnet (14). Coincidence? As for the poems themselves, it was the usual mixed bag of many I liked, and Once again I've taken a dangerous trip into the world of poetry, a land that I admit I have very bad footing in. This year the Best American Poetry series was edited by Terrance Hayes, who provides a lively introduction in the form of an "interview" with an academic, and we learn the interesting numerical correlation between the number of characters in a Tweet (140) and the number of lines in a sonnet (14). Coincidence? As for the poems themselves, it was the usual mixed bag of many I liked, and many I had no clue as to what they were trying to say. Rather than come off like an obtuse poser, I'll just comment on the poems I liked. Several of them have dynamite opening lines, such as Erin Belieu's "Birds": "It's all Romeo and Juliet-- hate crimes, booty calls, political assassinations. Who's more Tybalt than the Blue Jay? More Mercutio than the mockingbird?" Or the simple opening declaration: "It takes an American to do really big things." This is in the poem "Control" by Rae Armantrout, and in those nine words I felt the entire history of the Western world rush by me. Or Traci Brimhall's "To Survive the Revolution": "I, too, love the devil. He comes to my bed all wrath and blessing and wearing my husband's beard, whispers, tell me who you suspect. He fools we the same way every time, but never punishes me the same way twice." My favorite opening line is from Marty McConnell's "vivisection (you're going to break my heart)," which is really nothing more than a breakup poem: "the frog ready for inspection, skin flaps opened and pinned back, organs arrayed for the taking--this is how I approach you" Many of the poems reflect race in all its problems and manifestations, such as "News from Harlem," by Kwame Dawes, Camille Dunghy's "Conspiracy (to breathe together)": "Last week, a woman smiled at my daughter and I wondered, if she might have been the sort of girl my mother says spat on my aunt when they were children in Virginia all those acts and laws ago." There are poems from the Latin perspective, such as Ray Gonzalez's "One El Paso, Two El Paso": "The violent border, I assumed, though the boundary line between the living and the dead was erased years ago." And even from the ironic white point of view, Tony Hoagland's "White Writer": "It's been pointed out that my characters eat a lot of lightly-braised asparagus and get FedEx packages almost daily. Yet I dislike being thought of as a white writer. I never wanted to be limited like that." A few of the poems are ingenious word puzzles. I have no idea what Anne Carson's poem "A Fragment of Ibykos Translated 6 Ways" is about, but I was intrigued by it. Ibykos was a poet of antiquity, and we get several different translations of one of his poems, although each gets filtered through something increasingly more surreal, such as Brecht's FBI file, a piece of Samuel Beckett's End Game, signs from the London Underground, and from the author's manual for a microwave oven. And I really liked Jon Sands' "Decoded." I can't really quote anything from it, because it exists really only in its totality, but it is two poems in one, with each line separating a pair of words by a slash, so you can read each poem down, rather than across. "OK Cupid," by Major Jackson, is shaggy dog of a poem, that reminds me of the nursery rhyme "Mockingbird," which never ends. Jackson's poem is a series of comparisons about dating: "Dating a Catholic is like dating a tribe and dating a tribe is like dating a nation and dating a nation is like dating a football star and dating a football star is like dating a new car" And so on, for another few hundred lines. It's a gas. My two favorite poems of the collection are, in reverse order, Sandra Simonds' "I Grade Online Humanities Tests," which is at first whiff seems like a funny poem about the travails of a grad student, but has a real bite to it: "I grade online humanities tests at McDonald's where there are no black people and there's a multiple choice question or white people about Don Quixote or Asian or Indian people." As you can see, it's stream of consciousness, and mentions a poem by James Franco, Elliott Smith, and the Crown Vic. The best poem, in my estimation, is Patricia Lockwood's "Rape Joke." I actually had heard of this poem, as Lockwood's youth and sex appeal had helped her get a lot of publicity in places where poets are usually verboten. It's obviously about an incident in her life that must be painful to deal with. "The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee." Lockwood is telling her story in the context, I think, of the controversy about whether "rape jokes" can be funny. By doing so, she slyly puts humor in the poem: "The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke." Lockwood is also aware of what writing this poem, which by my guess was the most famous poem written in 2013: "The rape joke is if you write a poem Rape Joke, you're asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you." Just last night I went to a social gathering of a writer's group I recently joined. Some people there wrote poetry, something I have never seriously attempted, because when I even think about it I can sort of imagine how horrible it would be. If I did write poetry, it would have to be the regimented kind, that rhymes and whatnot. I read these poems and see how every detail must be sweated over--the way the line breaks, whether capitalization is used, the indentations (I have attempted to reproduce my samples as closely as possible). All of this is done with the greatest forethought, and it all mystifies me. Perhaps this line is the closest to the poet's creative life, from Greg Wrenn's "Detainment": "In the undisclosed desert facility, They strapped me to a steel table and told me to recite the poem that would save the world."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I like Kevin Lawrence's response to this book, both his approach and a number of individual judgements he gets right. It's all about the poems, after all. Hayes' volume in this series offers a useful snapshot of the field in a year during which I read more in non-fiction and fiction than in poetry. Here are seventy-five American poets, and while I gratefully sat in Yusef Komunyakaa's Harlem class one semester twenty years ago, and have met several other of the poets, the vast majority are unknow I like Kevin Lawrence's response to this book, both his approach and a number of individual judgements he gets right. It's all about the poems, after all. Hayes' volume in this series offers a useful snapshot of the field in a year during which I read more in non-fiction and fiction than in poetry. Here are seventy-five American poets, and while I gratefully sat in Yusef Komunyakaa's Harlem class one semester twenty years ago, and have met several other of the poets, the vast majority are unknown to me. The book is an occasion of guilt-free internet stalking, for most have websites, most have books, and a nice sampling have videos and a wide if not deep web distribution of their work. The "nomadic tribe of teaching poets," as a friend refers to it, certainly gets at one dominant pattern in how these poets make their living; another, and I won't lie but to suggest I knew this going in, is that Hayes, who is African American, is embedded in a network of acknowledgment (and who knows, more-than-acknowledgment) that something has been going on in African-American poetry in recent years, as more African-American poets begin teaching in Universities, and excavating a coterie within the nomadic tribe. That phenomenon is on display here -- a big reason I bought this book. There are some nice poems published this year from the ranks of the coterie: three of the poems I like best are by Major Jackson, Nathaniel Mackey, and Afaa Michael Weaver, while three more liked well were by poets I had not read: Joel Dias-Porter, Douglas Kearney, and Camille Dungy. The range of work excavated from this social phenomenon is, of course, within this anthology, unrepresentative; getting just the work of a year, it's nothing upon which to venture an inference, other than that these folks (the nomadic teaching tribe) write good poems. Nonetheless, it's an opportunity to see how an impressive eye (Hayes') for the social phenomenon experiences as a set of aesthetic judgments what he's anyway a part of as a social poet. And that strikes me as a fairly rare opportunity. About myself I'll report that when I was in my early twenties (the mid-Eighties), and just beginning to read in African-American poetry, my identification in that work done by Weaver's generation observed its penchant to write culturally -- the first such book I purchased was Nikki Giovanni's ego-tripping (1973), with its odes to Sly Stone, Nina Simone, James Brown and other heroes from popular music.* I noticed this because, frankly, among those poets most highly regarded by my teachers, the cultural poem (by which I mean, one with the capacity to let the circumstances of an author's life [his musical tastes!] be a subject of the work opening the poem to readers -- and Michael S. Harper is another influential example) was more likely to be embodied in some type of psychic swerve away from a modernist master. So, to take an example of a poet currently undergoing a renaissance, if the Hayes volume is any evidence, John Berryman's long poem, and its swerve away from Pound. While a stylistic dominant from the Eighties period might well be said to be the poem the occasion of which was language, in our present period, by contrast, we have at least this volume to attest that there is still, if you will, the poem of negritude, and there are at least two poems reflecting on the topic in this anthology (by Komunyakaa and Rita Dove), as well several poems reflecting the influence (not all by African American writers, by the way) of what might be called "the cultural poem"; so, e.g., Zucker, Seidel, Simonds, Powell, Hoagland are all, seemingly, non-African-Americans, while Jericho Brown, Eugene Gloria, Kearney, Johnson, Jackson, and Dawes are each African-Americans writing poems about culture). My point is that while the cultural poem may or may not have been a counter-thematic pattern in the Seventies/Eighties, today it's surely as prevalent as any other kind of poem in this anthology, for instance a poem of the fractured self, like Olena Katlytiak Davis' entry, which anyway refers, if it doesn't exactly "cross," culturally, in its allusion, to Louise Gluck, a "move" John Berryman would easily recognize. I'm trying to get at why I think there are a lot of good poems here, and not many better-than-good ones. I put it to an intensification of "poem-ing" among this year's anthology-poets, in their responses to late modernism, relative to the respective generational and racial cohorts the anthology's first years sampled. The dominants I once observed in African-American poetry are flouted, and where they haven't disappeared they're as likely to be prevalent in poetry from outside the coteries as from within -- a derivation of the social intercourse within the writing program in poetry that should not surprise us. What I really enjoyed, by the way, aside from the likes I already mentioned, are Alexie and Armantrout, Carson and Dawes, Eady and Graber, Myles and Ruefle, Seidel and Wilner. *Hayes includes a posthumously published poem by the pastoral poet, Larry Levis. Now surely Levis, who of course had an intensely enthusiastic following in the Eighties, when he was still alive, allowed his readers to look in upon the "circumstances of his life" as I'm stipulating is a criteria for the cultural poem. And you can see this in the Levis poem Hayes reprints, with its reference to Otto (Bill) Fick, Levis' colleague at Cal State Fullerton. The reference is private, and indeed, it was this aspect of Levis's work that as readers we had the least reason to doubt, though doubt we did. It reads as part of the nostalgic otium Levis was always making in his poems. We doubted the authenticity of it because we knew Levis to be part of the nomadic teaching tribe. But at some point the nomadic teaching tribe drops off the cultural horizon it's pointing us toward. Nostalgia or conservative, it's all lost.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tristan

    This is a runaway favorite out of the Best American Poetry volumes that I have read. Out of 1997, 2007, 2010, and 2011, only '97 was even close to as consistently great as this anthology was. I found myself marking almost every poem with a mark of medium positive to highly positive opinion and even the ones I was definitively not impressed by did not engender active dislike the way the bottom end of any of these collections so often do. There was, as usual, a nice mix of old, familiar names--She This is a runaway favorite out of the Best American Poetry volumes that I have read. Out of 1997, 2007, 2010, and 2011, only '97 was even close to as consistently great as this anthology was. I found myself marking almost every poem with a mark of medium positive to highly positive opinion and even the ones I was definitively not impressed by did not engender active dislike the way the bottom end of any of these collections so often do. There was, as usual, a nice mix of old, familiar names--Sherman Alexie, John Ashberry, Mark Doty, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, Rita Dove, and others--and new ones--Ray Gonzalez, Kathleen Graber, Jane Springer, Corey Van Landingham, and others. This makes the anthology very useful going forward as a reference for future reads, as well as an enjoyable collection in its own right. My favorite poems were "During the Autopsy" by Corey Van Landingham, "Calendar Days" by Jake Adam York, "Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze inside It" by Larry Levis, "Script Poem" by Rosemary Griggs, "The River Twice" by Kathleen Graber, "One El Paso, Two El Paso" by Ray Gonzalez, "On Reflection" by Linda Bierds, and "Sonnet, With Pride" by Sherman Alexie, but there were many others that I liked nearly as much. Numerous poems were aggressive in their aims and pointed commentary, which can be disconcerting, but these poems tended to carry it off beautifully. The most stunning example of that was probably Patricia Lockwood's "Rape Joke"--a prose poem about the violence of sexual assault and the separate violence of how we talk about it, with sections likeThe rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking into the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. "Ahhhh," it thinks. "Yes. A goatee." Lockwood's poem is not alone though in "Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze inside It" we are reminded, "The trouble with a good idea is that it has to work" and "Sonnet, with Pride" contains, 10. You might also think that I'm using starving lions as a metaphor for homeless folks, but I'm not. Homeless folks have been used far too often as targets for metaphors. I'm using those starving lions as a simple metaphor for hunger. All of our hunger. On the less political end of the spectrum come poems like "Calendar Days", which opens "One day you wake and they're there, flecks of mud / weed-eaters throw against the window, moths / in their dark migrations, salmon that taste like dust," "Script Poem" and "The River Twice" (which will not format easily into the review), "During the Autopsy", reading, "the tree open inside her, seeming to take root near the navel, / branching out between the ribs. Thick bark falling away under / the scalpel. A man worries a pair of bats from her throat.", and Hailey Leithauser's "In My Last Past Life", a gently elegaic villanelle that begins, "In my last past life I had a nut brown wife, / a gray and white house looking over the sea, / a forest for love and a river for grief". The collection was not flawless--and while I will admit that the Foreword (where I found Lehman to be more pretentious and dull than usual) and the Introduction (which took the form of an interview between the guest editor and a critic I found more sanctimonious and pretentious that Lehman) had me worried going in--this was a truly remarkable installment of the Best American Poetry series, giving me interest in continuing to read a larger portion of their selections.

  9. 5 out of 5

    B.

    Overall, I would give this collection a high B average (technically an 87.08% avg.) as far as the quality of the poems contained. I know that attempting to quantify poetic effect/value is a ridiculous gesture, but I am simply a ridiculous person. Of course, this is purely based off of my own tastes and will not necessarily reflect your average satisfaction rate. I started a mission a few months ago to read the last few entries in the Best American Poetry series so that I can begin to get a better Overall, I would give this collection a high B average (technically an 87.08% avg.) as far as the quality of the poems contained. I know that attempting to quantify poetic effect/value is a ridiculous gesture, but I am simply a ridiculous person. Of course, this is purely based off of my own tastes and will not necessarily reflect your average satisfaction rate. I started a mission a few months ago to read the last few entries in the Best American Poetry series so that I can begin to get a better sense of A) what my taste in poetry is, and B) my own poetic voice. I am finding so far that I am all over the map and impressionable in both areas (I am only an amateur poet at this point, if that). I was overjoyed to see that Hayes included Charles Kinbote (of Pale Fire fame) in his introduction. It was easily the best introduction of the BAP series that I have read so far. As far the selection, I am pleased with the political and racial relevance of some of the pieces. It feels good to be able to contextualize the work of poet's in your own time without having to take a course about their historical and biographical background. Living with the poet and being able to relate to the history that they are chronicling in real time is a refreshing change of pace from my college delving into poets from previous centuries. I, of course, enjoy reading both immensely. I will also commend Hayes on selecting what may be my favorite poem I have come across yet in a BAP - Sherman Alexie's "Sonnet with Pride." Masterpieces (9) "Sonnet with Pride" by Sherman Alexie "Control" by Rae Armantrout "SCRIPT POEM" by Rosemary Griggs "White Writer" by Tony Hoagland "Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood "Selection from Tanka Diary" by Harryette Mullen "Wishing Well" by Gregory Pardlo "Free Beer" by Diane Seuss "Emerald Spider Between Rose Thorns" by Dean Young Masterful (11) "Breezeway" by John Ashbery "Host" by Jericho Brown "Conspiracy (to breathe together)" by Camille Dungy "Overturned" by Cornelius Eady "As Like" by Adam Hammer "In My Last Past Life" by Hailey Leithauser "Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze inside It" by Larry Levis "Decoded" by Jon Sands "I Grade Online Humanities Tests" by Sandra Simonds "Detainment" by Greg Wrenn "Blessed Are" by Robert Wrigley Masters Candidates (10) "With Birds" by Erin Belieu "On Reflection" by Linda Bierds "wondering about our demise while driving to Disneyland with abandon" by CAConrad "A Fragment of Ibykos Translated 6 Ways" by Anne Carson "Juilliard Cento Sonnet" by Philip Dacey "News from Harlem" by Kwame Dawes "These Hands, if Not Gods" by Natalie Diaz "No Doubt About It (I Gotta Get Another Hat)" by LE Hinton "One El Paso, Two El Paso" by Ray Gonzalez "During the Autopsy" by Corey Van Landingham Overall, I would absolutely to highly recommend approx. 40% of the poems contained in this volume.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris - Quarter Press Editor

    The last volume of this I read (2005), I quite enjoyed. This one... I love how the series has new editors for each year. But, of course, that creates different aesthetics and different judgements for what's the "Best." And while many of the poems are excellent, most in this collection felt a bit too heady for me, the ideas and forms and themes going beyond my meager knowledge of poetry and leaving me thinking, "I guess that was a good poem..." Moreso than fiction, at least to me, poetry seems to h The last volume of this I read (2005), I quite enjoyed. This one... I love how the series has new editors for each year. But, of course, that creates different aesthetics and different judgements for what's the "Best." And while many of the poems are excellent, most in this collection felt a bit too heady for me, the ideas and forms and themes going beyond my meager knowledge of poetry and leaving me thinking, "I guess that was a good poem..." Moreso than fiction, at least to me, poetry seems to have very specific types and styles that will connect with a reader, and what didn't work for me here might be one of the better collections for others. Again, I think I enjoy more of the "story" or personal moments poetry that is less abstract in its images and ideas. I like having a distilled emotion poured over me. Here, it happened, but not too often, not enough for this particular collection to make me track down very many of the contributors--as past collections have done.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patti K

    The guest editor for this year's volume is Terrance Hayes, a very talented black energetic poet. I enjoy his poems. Although his selections for this collection I was less than pleased overall. Many are nearly frenetic in their surreal flows. A few I had no idea what the writer was getting at except their pyrotechnics of language. Saying that, I loved the very first poem in the book by Sherman Alexie,"Sonnet, With Pride." It is a prose poem about a pride of lions that escaped from a zoo in Baghdad and The guest editor for this year's volume is Terrance Hayes, a very talented black energetic poet. I enjoy his poems. Although his selections for this collection I was less than pleased overall. Many are nearly frenetic in their surreal flows. A few I had no idea what the writer was getting at except their pyrotechnics of language. Saying that, I loved the very first poem in the book by Sherman Alexie,"Sonnet, With Pride." It is a prose poem about a pride of lions that escaped from a zoo in Baghdad and roamed the war-torn streets until some American soldiers killed them. A riveting poem about violence and vulnerability. An effective anti-war poem.

  12. 5 out of 5

    James

    I'm a big Terrance Hayes fan and enjoyed seeing his aesthetics reflected in the introduction and anthology contents. The intro shows his playful, subversive side: it's framed as an interview with Dr. Charles Kinbote (the unreliable narrator of Nabokov's Pale Fire, which I didn't know till know, bad me). The poems themselves reflect Hayes' interests in music ("Juilliard Cento Sonnet," "The Blues Is a Verb," "Liner Notes for Monk"), racial identity ("Negritude," "The Spring Cricket Repudiates His I'm a big Terrance Hayes fan and enjoyed seeing his aesthetics reflected in the introduction and anthology contents. The intro shows his playful, subversive side: it's framed as an interview with Dr. Charles Kinbote (the unreliable narrator of Nabokov's Pale Fire, which I didn't know till know, bad me). The poems themselves reflect Hayes' interests in music ("Juilliard Cento Sonnet," "The Blues Is a Verb," "Liner Notes for Monk"), racial identity ("Negritude," "The Spring Cricket Repudiates His Parable of Negritude," "Write Whiter"), poetic forms (the cento sonnet again, "Sonnet, with Pride," "Selection from a Tanka Diary"), modern technology ("Host," "OK Cupid," "Mindful," "I Grade Online Humanities Tests"). It's a great mix with a lot of variety in subject matter, shape, tone, attitude. Of course, there were poems I didn't like in this anthology. (There are 75 total. It'd be pretty remarkable to love every last one.) I think it's better to judge something like this by the way it's curated and presented, rather than by the sum of its parts.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey May

    Content warning / mention of assault I borrowed the 2014 edition of Best American Poetry before the library closed and have finally been digging in. In it is the most fantastic poem I've read this year: "Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood. There are also more than a dozen other gems in these pages (although there are also some I don't care for, important to note just to point out that everyone's taste varies). Favorites included work by Traci Brimhall, Lucie Brock-Broido, Jericho Brown, Kurt Brown, Jo Content warning / mention of assault I borrowed the 2014 edition of Best American Poetry before the library closed and have finally been digging in. In it is the most fantastic poem I've read this year: "Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood. There are also more than a dozen other gems in these pages (although there are also some I don't care for, important to note just to point out that everyone's taste varies). Favorites included work by Traci Brimhall, Lucie Brock-Broido, Jericho Brown, Kurt Brown, Joseph Ceravolo, Henri Cole, Michael Earl Craig, Natalie Diaz, Rita Dove, Camille Dungy, Ross Gay, Yusef Komunyakaa, Larry Levis, Valzhyna Mort, Sharon Olds, Gregory Pardlo, and Dean Young. Thankful to be exposed to new poets I haven't read before and thankful for the inspiration I had to write four new poems!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Liaken

    I've yet to try a Best of American Poetry that is enjoyable at all. I imagine there is so much pressure on the editors to be "worthy," that the collections end up trying to "prove" something in a way that poetry should never have to prove. My 2¢.

  15. 5 out of 5

    R.C.

    A variety of voices and styles, but unfortunately in 2014 evidently the styles didn't agree with me. Nothing caught my eye.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rayne

    3.5 stars. As I review the collections in this series, I think I'm just going to be putting in notes. This time, gifs are included (under spoiler tags for formatting reasons). Oh yeah, I've become that kind of Goodreads member. Oh yeah, baby. Buckle up, 'cause we're going for a ride! (It's not that kind of ride, though. It's going to be very tame.) ~ In "With Birds," Erin Belieu writes: "the exact shade of an aubade". As soon as I read that I was like: (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] ...then I l 3.5 stars. As I review the collections in this series, I think I'm just going to be putting in notes. This time, gifs are included (under spoiler tags for formatting reasons). Oh yeah, I've become that kind of Goodreads member. Oh yeah, baby. Buckle up, 'cause we're going for a ride! (It's not that kind of ride, though. It's going to be very tame.) ~ In "With Birds," Erin Belieu writes: "the exact shade of an aubade". As soon as I read that I was like: (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] ...then I looked the definition up and was like: (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] ...gorl (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] ~ CAConrad's "wondering about our demise while driving to Disneyland with abandon." Was just. So. Confusing. ~ Anne Carson's "A Fragment of Ibykos Translated 6 Ways" o...kay? ~ Adam Hammer's "As Like" Literally contained the phrase "in times of the most extreme potatoes"... like, wtf?? why?? *~art~* or whatever, I guess. Anyway, moving on to poems I did like. There were (and I was pleasantly surprised by this) many I liked in this anthology. ~ "To Survive the Revolution" by Traci Brimhall -- no idea WTF it was about, to be honest. But it did sound purty. ~ "Host" by Jericho Brown -- this one was so effing good. I am not a gay black man, but man did Jericho Brown paint a picture for me. In the "Contributors' Notes and Comments" section, Jericho Brown describes the appeal of this poem in a way more eloquent than I could ever put into words: "I am ever fascinated by all the people who like 'Host' but have never met a man via jack'd, grindr, or adam4adam.com. I'm hoping this poem's appearance here lends power to my conviction that there is very little universal about poetry other than the marvelous music it makes in the mind and the mouth. And I trust this poem speaks for itself in its attempt to investigate desire, sexuality, and masculinity." Click here to read this really good fucking poem. ~ Philip Dacey's "Julliard Cento Sonnet" ~ Sean Thomas Dougherty's "The Blues Is a Verb" ~ "All wisdom is afterthought, a sort of helpless relief."- Rita Dove, The Spring Cricket Repudiates His Parable of Negritude ~ So many poems in this collection were "eh"-not good, not bad. But Cornelius Eady's "Overturned" was both until it wasn't: it became fun because of its word-mincing, ie "pickle wince". ~ Major Jackson's "OK Cupid" was fun. It was just fun. It's a good poem to read out loud, too. ~ Amaud Jamaul Johnson's "L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates Dead at 83" - I love poems about history because they always have a more personal, human element to them when they're narrated in poem form and in this poem you can really feel the pain of the people who lived in L.A. in the 80s and 90s around the time of the L.A. riots. ~ Patricia Lockwood's "Rape Joke" - went into the collection having heard a lot of things said about this piece (mostly positive) so I was naturally a little wary of it. Ended up liking it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Romie

    I read this series' annual issue every year, usually more than once. Usually at least three times. Usually, I skim it once to find the poems I know I'm going to like, then read it front to back, and then read the end notes while flipping back to the poems. Hence although this was my Christmas gift in 2014, it's taken me until now to finish it. Terrance Hayes and I aren't eye-to-eye on what we like best about poetry, but I can surmise that he's a sucker for strong endings, which is also true of me I read this series' annual issue every year, usually more than once. Usually at least three times. Usually, I skim it once to find the poems I know I'm going to like, then read it front to back, and then read the end notes while flipping back to the poems. Hence although this was my Christmas gift in 2014, it's taken me until now to finish it. Terrance Hayes and I aren't eye-to-eye on what we like best about poetry, but I can surmise that he's a sucker for strong endings, which is also true of me. Some poems, I'd be 20 lines into, thinking, what's special here? Why do I care about this? Then I'd hit the last three lines, and say "ah. Gotcha." I think we also have similar senses of humor, given how much I was delighted by Frederick Seidel's Philip Roth tribute and Adam Hammer's "As Like." My absolute favorite poem this edition is Kiki Petrosino's "Story Problem," which I got stuck on for at least half a month, because each time I picked up the book I'd just read that poem again. Another favorite was/is Cornelius Eady's "Overturned." ("You got that pickle wince, my friend")

  18. 4 out of 5

    SmarterLilac

    Stunning. Superb. Incredible. I can't write enough great things about this anthology. It's a leaps and bounds improvement over the 2013 volume and I couldn't be happier with it. From the sultry but serious rhythms of Sherman Alexie and Rita Dove, to the heart-stopping made-me-cry (and think for hours) Camille Dungy, this poetry is some of the most passionate and complex I've encountered in years. It's a rare Best American I read all of, but I did with this one. Lehman's searing rebuke to those pr Stunning. Superb. Incredible. I can't write enough great things about this anthology. It's a leaps and bounds improvement over the 2013 volume and I couldn't be happier with it. From the sultry but serious rhythms of Sherman Alexie and Rita Dove, to the heart-stopping made-me-cry (and think for hours) Camille Dungy, this poetry is some of the most passionate and complex I've encountered in years. It's a rare Best American I read all of, but I did with this one. Lehman's searing rebuke to those predicting the death of poetry (to which I always say, bollocks!) and Terrance Hayes' own stellar (and sly) introductions are definitely worth our time as poetry lovers. Really, really loved this one. ETA: Sadly, this is also the kind of book that makes me think I should give up writing forever because I have no talent. (Seriously, my writers' block was gone until I read this.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Garrett Zecker

    An excellent collection of poetry published in 2014, this particular year of curation was fascinating, striking, and bold. Out of the entire series of BEST AMERICAN, the poetry collections seem to be the most consistently good. While there is no way to talk about this collections in any uniform way, the following really stood out to me in this year's collection: Hicock’s “Blue Prints,” Griggs’ “Script Poem,” Kearney’s “The Labor of Stagger Lee…”, Lockwood’s “Rape Joke,” Makey’s “Old Time…”, Marvi An excellent collection of poetry published in 2014, this particular year of curation was fascinating, striking, and bold. Out of the entire series of BEST AMERICAN, the poetry collections seem to be the most consistently good. While there is no way to talk about this collections in any uniform way, the following really stood out to me in this year's collection: Hicock’s “Blue Prints,” Griggs’ “Script Poem,” Kearney’s “The Labor of Stagger Lee…”, Lockwood’s “Rape Joke,” Makey’s “Old Time…”, Marvin’s “An Etiquitte for Eyes”, Brown’s “Pan del Muerto”, Belieu’s “With Birds”, Caconrad’s “Wondering About Our Demise”, Dawes’ “News from Harlem”, and Dias-Porter’s “Elegy Indigo”. Excellent forward and intro by Hayes and Lehman on the nature of anthologizing and reading poetry (and reading in general) honestly seems to be the standout writing in the whole book, however. Enjoyed this collection very much.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tony Roberts

    Out of the 75 poems in this collection, I would name 8 as superb, perhaps 10 as above average, and the remaining ones mediocre at best. I will mention the superb ones both to recommend them to other readers and to come back to them myself: "The River Twice" by Kathleen Graber; "In My Last Past Life" by Hailey Leithauser; "Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood; "An Etiquette for Eyes" by Cate Marvin; "Masticated Light" by Jamaal May; "vivisection (you're going to break my heart)" by Marty McConnell; "S Out of the 75 poems in this collection, I would name 8 as superb, perhaps 10 as above average, and the remaining ones mediocre at best. I will mention the superb ones both to recommend them to other readers and to come back to them myself: "The River Twice" by Kathleen Graber; "In My Last Past Life" by Hailey Leithauser; "Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood; "An Etiquette for Eyes" by Cate Marvin; "Masticated Light" by Jamaal May; "vivisection (you're going to break my heart)" by Marty McConnell; "Sylt I" by Valzhyna Mort. "Decoded" by Jon Sands. Though this volume is not consistently good, these eight poems make it well worth the read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chelsey

    Lots of great poems here, interesting, challenging, inventive; plenty that didn't grab me. A typical Best American experience. What is notable to me about this particular edition is the utterly bizarre intro--apparently Hayes wrote a 200-page intro to the book, and since that wasn't going to fly, the intro is instead an interview of him by a strangely hostile and traditionally-minded editor who challenges his selections and asks things like, Do you really think all these poems are the BEST? I've Lots of great poems here, interesting, challenging, inventive; plenty that didn't grab me. A typical Best American experience. What is notable to me about this particular edition is the utterly bizarre intro--apparently Hayes wrote a 200-page intro to the book, and since that wasn't going to fly, the intro is instead an interview of him by a strangely hostile and traditionally-minded editor who challenges his selections and asks things like, Do you really think all these poems are the BEST? I've read nothing like it. So strange. Sends you into the book with an odd taste in your mouth.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alarie

    I did not enjoy the 2013 edition of this series, but was lured into trying the newer one on another reader’s opinion that Hayes made better choices. I agree he does, but barely. I bow to Hayes’s superior knowledge, but rate on my personal taste. The 2014 volume gained one star by having a few more poems that really engaged me. Among my favorites were poems by Mark Doty, Rita Dove, Cornelius Eady, Bob Hicok, and Robert Wrigley. “Rape Joke” by Patricia Lockwood will continue to haunt me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Charles M.

    The title speaks for itself; as this contains some rather unique poetry from past years. Patricia Lockwood's "Rape Joke" was particularly interesting; and even more reading later on her purview of writing this piece. Other pieces contain the writer's emotions about everyday life to other items of newsworthy notice.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    I know that it is supposed to be a cross-section of American poetry and that an effort is made to include many kinds of poets and poetry. That being said, some of it I personally cannot enjoy as poetry. I recommend the reading of this book if you are interested in what is being sought and found by those who love to read poetry.

  25. 4 out of 5

    James

    I liked a lot of the poems, though only a few stand out to me– in particular the stunning, haunting, horrifying "Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood, which I literally cannot read without sobbing. You can also find it at http://www.theawl.com/2013/07/rape-jo... ... Other standouts included Sherman Alexie's "Sonnet, with Pride" and Jon Sands's "Decoded". I liked a lot of the poems, though only a few stand out to me– in particular the stunning, haunting, horrifying "Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood, which I literally cannot read without sobbing. You can also find it at http://www.theawl.com/2013/07/rape-jo... ... Other standouts included Sherman Alexie's "Sonnet, with Pride" and Jon Sands's "Decoded".

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lourdes Heuer

    Book 21 of 2016. Poetry. "I am not smart / about love, is what I'm saying. not even / smart about whose face I will take / in my hands and press against my face / until we are a single organism. the mouth / is not an organ but I give it to you / anyway, I give it all away is what / I'm saying." - Marty McConnell, "vivisection (you're going to break my heart)"

  27. 4 out of 5

    Troy Ketch

    These poems were tough for me this year. Some were great; I will remember and read them again. Others just did not speak to me. I have a tough time with poems that are so interior that I just can't see the story. Oh well, maybe next year will be better.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leonard

    This annual series continues to be one of the most reliable sources of fine poetry. Don't miss it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

    Not my favorite anthology of all time, but it had some really excellent pieces in it. I'll definitely be transferring some of these into my notebooks :)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Book #100!

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