Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.

The Best American Poetry 2013 cover
David Lehman
Best American Poetry


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Best American Poetry 2013 is part of that "best of" series I follow with great interest, and usually do not review. I usually read the Best American Short Stories, carefully, slowly, over a great length of time. Each one deserves a long, and slow analysis, multiple re-readings, and some kind of written response as fruit from the inspiration. The same thing is true for "best of" volumes of poetry. Poetry differs because rather than a story, each poem usually provides a puzzle on many levels. I once had a language professor who said that poetry is full of inside jokes, and you only understand a poem when you've gotten past that secret gate and are "in" the poem.

The problem with reviewing an anthology is obvious. Do you pick one or two poems? Do you try to take a long view and sum up the entire table of contents? I have never come to a satisfactory decision where anthologies are concerned. But this volume has two features that I really enjoy. One is seeing which journals and magazines published the year's poetry; the other is getting familiar with the guest editor's taste and choices. This year's editor is poet Denise Duhamel. Her work is witty and polished and aches with emotion, so that is what I expected in this year's collection. (cont...)