I am so glad I own this book. I bought it ten years ago, and just got around to reading it.
I was already familiar with the work of Billy Collins, Robert Frost, and William Carlos Williams, and knew the names of several more of the poets laureate, but most of them were new to me.
The book is arranged starting with W.S. Merwin, who held the office in 2010 when the book was published, and working backward to Joseph Auslander, the original consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (which the position was called until 1986). Each poet’s section begins with a quote about his or her work, then a short biography, and then some representative poems. One feature of the biographies is that they list prominent awards won by the poets. I will be collecting some of the books that won Pulitzers.
Much of the poetry in the anthology is of the caliber that I aspire to. Many poems delighted me with their images and wordplay. But some did not move me, and I confess that some I did not understand at all (probably my shortcoming, not the poets’). I liked the more recent poet laureates the best. Nevertheless, I intend to reread this 716-page book often. I suspect my enjoyment of it will increase with time.
I honestly don’t want to go to the trouble of obtaining permissions to reprint poems from the book; but here are links to some of my favorites:
- Good People by W.S. Merwin
- Turtle by Kay Ryan
- Her Garden by Donald Hall
- So This Is Nebraska by Ted Kooser
- Forgetfulness by Billy Collins
- Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House by Billy Collins
- The War Against the Trees by Stanley Kunitz
- The Wellfleet Whale by Stanley Kunitz
- Ach, Wien by Rita Dove
- The Burning of Yellowstone by Mona Van Duyn
- To the President-elect by Joseph Brodsky
- Bosnia Tune by Joseph Brodsky
- Pot Roast by Mark Strand
- Piazza di Spagna, Early Morning by Richard Wilbur
- Boy at the Window by Richard Wilbur
- Lightness in Autumn by Robert Fitzgerald
- The Book of Yolek by Anthony Hecht
- Middle Passage by Robert Hayden
- Summer Storm by Louis Untermeyer
- This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams
- Sandpiper by Elizabeth Bishop
- One Art by Elizabeth Bishop
- For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell
- Night Sweat by Robert Lowell
- The Piano Tuner’s Wife by Karl Shapiro
- Home-Bound by Joseph Auslander
The Poets Laureate Anthology is a great collection of poems. If you are a serious lover of American poetry, this book is a must for your shelf.