Cover image for The Best American poetry, 1999
The Best American poetry, 1999
Bly, Robert.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, [1999]

Physical Description:
223 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Bio-bibliographies of poets: p. 173-215.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS584 .B43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Sales have tripled for The Best American Poetry since the debut volume in 1988. And what has become a "must for poetry lovers" (Tampa Tribune-News), should stir even more excitement with Robert Bly as this year's guest editor. An award winning poet and translator -- famous, too, for his leadership role in the men's movement and his bestselling book, Iron John -- Bly offers a fresh perspective on American poetry.

Bly has chosen the seventy-five best poems of the year from a host of contenders culled from a wide range of literary magazines and journals. He has selected the work of celebrated poets John Ashbery, Anne Carson, Henri Cole, Louise Gluck, Phillip Levine, and Richard Wilbur, as well as poems from innovative newcomers. With comments from the poets elucidating their work, and with a Foreword by Series Editor David Lehman, The Best American Poetry 1999 is a stunning addition to the series People magazine called, "a year's worth of the very best."

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Now in its 12th year, the Best American franchise is perhaps the biggest-selling in poetry. Each year, poet and critic Lehman taps a different gray (or graying) eminence to help choose 75 or so poems from the nation's literary magazines. This year's guest editor, Iron John author and midwestern surrealist Robert Bly (Eating the Honey of Words; Forecasts, Mar 29), has followed his predecessors in the seriesÄJohn Hollander, Richard Howard, Adrienne Rich and Harold Bloom, to name a fewÄby choosing poems that complement his own style and tendencies. Short, crypto-surreal works by Franco Pagnucci, Thomas R. Smith and Peggy Steele strongly recall Bly's work from the '60s, while Charles Wright, Lydia Davis, Gray Jacobik, and John Balaban turn in halcyon tableaux and wistful vignettes worthy of the superlative in the title. The rest of the book is mainly divided between the academicÄmany of the poems are tributes to well-established literary men (Thoreau, Hemingway, Pasternak, Lawrence, Kierkegaard, Freud)Äthe poor-spirited (Dick Allen's unfunny "The Selfishness of the Poetry Reader"; John Brehm's half-apologetic account of hating his students in "Sea of Faith") and the (more or less probingly) self-involved. As with many anthologies, the Table of Contents and Contributors' Notes make significant reading on their own. Forty percent of this year's contributors are women; at least 45% were born before the U.S. entered World War II; one could further break things down by race, class or region, and find the collection thoughtfully put together. But Bly's test for best-ness, he notes in his preface, was "heat" ("heat of friendship"; "heat of form"; "heat of the blues"; etc.), which excludes, for example, Language-oriented writing, because "those poets work very hard to drain all the meaning out of the words they use." No matter how well-constructed or demographically correct the poems included may be, these empty categories and dismissals don't justify the bland, predictable self-affirmation Bly's choices finally reflect. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

David LehmanRobert BlyDick AllenJohn BalabanColeman BarksGeorge BilgereElizabeth BishopChana BlochPhilip BoothJohn BrehmHayden CarruthLucille CliftonBilly CollinsRobert CreeleyLydia DavisDebra Kang DeanChard deNiordRussell EdsonLawrence FerlinghettiDan GerberLouise GluckRay GonzalezJohn HainesDonald HallJennifer Michael HechtBob HicokJane HirshfieldTony HoaglandJohn HollanderAmy HolmanDavid IgnatowGray JacobikJosephine JacobsenLouis JenkinsMary KarrX. J. KennedyGalway KinnellCarolyn KizerRon KoertgeYusef KomunyakaaWilliam KulikJames LaughlinDorianne LauxLi-Young LeeDenise LevertovPhilip LevineDavid MametGigi MarksWilliam MatthewsWesley McNairCzeslaw MiloszJoan MurraySharon OldsMary OliverFranco PagnucciMolly PeacockDavid RayAdrienne RichAlberto RiosKay RyanSonia SanchezRevan SchendlerMyra ShapiroCharles SimicLouis SimpsonThomas R. SmithMarcia SouthwickWilliam StaffordPeggy SteeleRuth StoneLarissa SzporlukDiane ThielDavid WagonerRichard WilburC. K. WilliamsCharles WrightTimothy Young
Forewordp. 9
Introductionp. 19
"The Selfishness of the Poetry Reader"p. 33
"Story"p. 35
"Bill Matthews Coming Along (1942-1997)"p. 37
"Catch"p. 39
"Foreign-Domestic"p. 40
"Tired Sex"p. 41
"Narrow Road, Presidents' Day"p. 42
"Sea of Faith"p. 45
"Because I Am"p. 47
"the mississippi river empties into the gulf"p. 48
"Dharma"p. 49
"Mitch"p. 51
"Betrayal"p. 54
"Taproot"p. 55
"Pasternak"p. 57
"Madam's Heart"p. 58
"A Buddha in the Woodpile"p. 59
"My Father's Fields"p. 62
"Vita Nova"p. 64
"Breastbone"p. 66
"The Last Election"p. 68
"Smile"p. 70
"September"p. 73
"What Would Freud Say?"p. 74
"The Envoy"p. 77
"Lawrence"p. 79
"Beach Whispers"p. 81
"Man Script"p. 82
"The Story of Progress"p. 85
"The Circle Theatre"p. 86
"Last Will and Testament"p. 88
"Two Prose Poems"p. 91
"The Patient"p. 93
"A Curse on a Thief"p. 95
"Why Regret?"p. 97
"The Erotic Philosophers"p. 99
"1989"p. 104
"Scapegoat"p. 106
"The Triumph of Narcissus and Aphrodite"p. 107
"Nunc Dimittis"p. 109
"The Shipfitter's Wife"p. 110
"The Sleepless Grape"p. 111
"First Love"p. 112
"The Return"p. 114
"A Charade"p. 116
"The Swim"p. 117
"Misgivings"p. 118
"The Characters of Dirty Jokes"p. 119
"A Ball"p. 121
From "Sonny's Hands"p. 122
"What It Meant"p. 124
"Flare"p. 126
"And Now"p. 132
"Say You Love Me"p. 133
"Hemingway's Garden"p. 135
"Seven Skins"p. 139
"Writing from Memory"p. 143
"That Will to Divest"p. 146
"Last recording session/for papa joe"p. 147
"The Public and the Private Spheres"p. 148
"Longing and Wonder"p. 150
"Barber College Haircut"p. 152
"A Shearling Coat"p. 153
"Housewarming"p. 154
"A Star Is Born in the Eagle Nebula"p. 155
"Ways to Live"p. 157
"The Drunkard's Daughter"p. 160
"A Moment"p. 161
"Deer Crossing the Sea"p. 162
"The Minefield"p. 163
"Thoreau and the Crickets"p. 164
"This Pleasing Anxious Being"p. 166
"Archetypes"p. 168
"American Twilight"p. 170
"The Thread of Sunlight"p. 171
Contributors' Notes and Commentsp. 173
Magazines Where the Poems Were First Publishedp. 216
Acknowledgmentsp. 219