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The Best American Poetry 2022

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I freely admit to being a poetry-lover but not quite a poetry-decoder. Often times I can sense the general "feel" of a poem, but I can't put into words why it makes me feel that way or what the poet intended. I know even less about the structural art of poetry. That being said, this review is for the casual reader. The person who likes poetry but doesn't feel "smart" enough to "get" it. This collection was very resonate in ways both large and small for me. It felt especially like a retrospective of the last few years and all the ups and downs those years have contained. There was a lot to unpack with this collection. Having done my first read through, next time I'd like to go back and read each poem with its included notes.
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Any anthology full of great poetry chosen by a master poet (in this case Matthew Zapruder) is bound to be a rich read, and this one certainly was a feast. Zapruder's introduction appealed to me, as he says he has chosen the poems specifically for those of us "uncertain what poetry is for." Poems may not know all the answers, but they ask the hard questions, he says. 

I was disappointed after that introduction that I found some of the poems impenetrable. But there were enough poems that did touch me that I would still recommend this book. 

Oliver Baez Bendorf's "What the Dead Can Do" was an early favorite, naming all the things we say are signs from our dead loved ones: a song coming on the radio, a red bird appearing before us, rainbows lighting the sky, animal tracks in the snow. The poem seems to be mocking us for our desire to ascribe a mythical meaning to everything we see after a loss.

I also was struck by a very long poem, much longer than I usually love, "The Rest is Silence" by Jason Koo. He writes about what it's like to be the only POC in an all white neighborhood, school, bar, building. The title is referenced in its ending, which refers to what signs of racism Audre Lorde would consider worth challenging. Koo feels Asian Americans are the POC group most closely aligned with whiteness, and Koo wonders if Lorde would have wanted to confront, as he fantasizes doing, the whiteness of the bar he's in, whether she would have thought of it "as worth/ the unrest, but maybe calculations like this/ prove our difference, my greater alignment/ with Whiteness, my ability to choose rest/ or unrest, when for her, the rest was silence." 

I also loved "Best Friend Ballad" by Sharon Olds, in which she recalls her friend, 9 years old, dying of lead poisoning, while her only job when visiting her was to conceal from her friend that the little girl's mother had died the day before, "so she could die as if she had a mother." That poem is from Threepenny Review, from which many of the poems were drawn. 

I also liked several poems about the pandemic lockdown:
* "Quoting the Bible by Luisa Muradyan, in which she repeats all day to her son, "Don't be afraid," as she puts on his mask and sterilizes his hands and keeps him from getting too close to anyone.
* Cecily Park's "Pandemic Parable," in which "her daughters are still so young that they've cried/ almost every day they've been alive."
* "In the Lockdown" by Charles Simic, which starts, "I might've gone crazy/ if not for solitude" and ends with recalled advice from his childhood that serves him well now, "Go sit quietlly and your room/ will teach you everything."

And I loved:
* DA Powell's "Elegy on Fire," which reminds us that "we love and don't love our parents/ who are after all just grown kids a/ little smarter than us perhaps but not/ by much especially when they vote."
* Ocean Vuong's reasons not to kill yourself, "Reasons for Staying," which includes "Because I made a promise."

If you love poetry and are not bothered when many poems in a book are a mystery, I would recommend you buy this book. Otherwise, this might be a great one to get from your library so you can just enjoy the ones that speak to you.
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Like most anthologies, some of these poems were amazing, inventive, and painful, some just forgettable, and most were pretty good, which makes this hard to rate. Instead, I’ll leave some recognizable names that might convince you to read, and I’ll note some of my favorite poems.

Oliver Baez Bendorf, Jericho Brown, Louise Gluck, Terrance Hayes, Ada Limon, Ocean Vuong, Jenny Zhang

Favorites:
Vows - E. C. Belli
Outer Lands - Bill Carty
The Innocent - Jennifer Chang
Today: What is Sexy - Laura Cronk
Separate but Umbilical Situations Relating to My Father - Diana Marie Delgado
Goblin - Matthew Dickman
Let Me - Camille T. Dungy
Into the Mountains - April Goldman
Against Death - Noor Hindi
How to Greet a Warbler - Yesenia Montilla
Best Friend Ballad - Sharon Olds
Follow Them - Matthew Rohrer
The Infant’s Eyes - Bianca Stone
Elegy for the Gnat - El Williams III

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!
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Any anthology of the 'best' of' a year's worth of poetry is dependent upon the editor and their particular taste. In the case of The Best American Poetry 2022, editor Matthew Zapruder's introductory essay explains that he looked to poems for hope in dire times. In particular, he notes, "what gave me hope was the sense that everywhere people are still dreaming."  And many of the selected poems explore that theme, of our dire times and the so-called American Dream, and what other kinds of dreams might replace it. The result is a collection of poems engaging with the political realities of living in the United States for people with a range of identities. They wrestle with topics such as racism (past & present), immigration, white supremacy, and the pandemic. The poems effectively speak to the political realities of 2022, and to that end, the collection achieves what it set out to do.
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In his introduction to Best Poetry 2022, Guest Editor Matthew Zapruder addresses a potential reader:  “If you are reading this and don’t read much poetery, or feel uncertain in relation to it, you are more than welcome here … I chose these poems thinking of you.”  And honestly, though these types of collections will always be a mixed bag in terms of what readers respond to, and different ones will respond differently,I found this (if I recall correctly, always a big if) the most consistently enjoyable and accessible collection in this series in at least several years.  Some poems here will challenge readers, others might frustrate, some will linger longer than others . As a general overview,  while I’m sure I read more poetry than the vast majority of Americans simply because that bar is sadly so, so low, I think Zapruder characterizes his choices correctly and hope non-readers might take him up on that welcome.  Finally, one of the best elements of the collection are the contributor notes at the back which are longer htan most such and offer up the poets’ thoughts on their poems, typically their inspiration.  So people shouldn’t stop reading once they’ve hit the last poem; there’s a lot more that will reward the reader.
A few favorites

Jerciho Brown’s “Inaugural”:  favorite line:  “I would love to live/I a country that lets me grow old

Bill Carty’s “Outer Lands”:  “And vow never to touch another living thing/for fear of how my being human might kill it”

Jennifer Chang’s “The Innocent”: “three smug eggs tucked into a nest, /the nest tucked into the crook/of a neighbor’s honeysuckle”

Tiana Clark “Broken Sestina Reaching for Black Joy”: “And I stopped/obsessively thinking/about death for a few moments, maybe even for a whole/evening, which was/the length of a tercet, an envoi sustained/with pleasure reaching for Black desire”

Cynthia Parker-Ohene;s : “In Virginia”:  “Pearline keeps pristine from the tyranny of/mistress Virginia’s men”

Mark Wunderlich’s “First, Chill”: “ I imagine them as they wander high peaks/rippling like figures underwater …/a shape drawn and erased/so only the pencil’s impress remains/Now that they are frozen/I know they are truly dead/Let me let them go”
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The hard part with anthology's is they are entirely subjective to the tastes of the editors. The collection is understandably largely very heavy in topic, fitting completely with the pandemic and the sociopolitical climate in America. Several poems are from a few years ago (such as my personal favorite, "Against Death" by Noor Hindi, which was from 2019). While all the included poems are good, I did not feel the editor's choice to list them alphabetically by author's last name did any favors to the poets or the collection. The first and last poem of an anthology usually tie it all together. This felt more random and scattered as opposed to curated.

That being said, focusing on the pulp of the anthology, highlights were:
"What Would You Ask the Artist?" by Terence Hayes
"Broken Sestina Reaching for Black Joy" by Tiana Clark
"Marriage" by Cathy Linh Che 
"Gaslighter" by Kristin Bock
and, of course, "Against Death" by Noor Hindi.

Overall I recommend, on the caveat that it may be more enjoyable to skip the lengthy editor forewords and pick poems at random to read in order to get a fuller experience.
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Did you know that this series has been published since 1988? The first editor was John Ashberry. So, this year’s volume is part of a long and respected tradition. Here are many poems to read, think about and enjoy. They are gathered from a variety of sources. An especially nice feature is that there are biographical information and comments by the poets on their poems.

Begin with the interesting forward and then dip in wherever you like. For me, this is a title to savor. I welcome the opportunity to read the works of the many poets with whom I am unfamiliar, interspersed with those I know.

Poetry fans or those who want to expand their horizons will enjoy this book. It will provide hours of thoughtful reading.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for this title. All opinions are my own.
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The Best American _____ series is always interesting, since it relies on the individual tastes of the editor, as well as what they have or have not read, what they consider to be important to the year... even when remaining objective there is still something that marks an anthology as distinctly theirs, and the best editors try for the widest scope, and one of excellence. TBAP 2022 has some common themes, certainly; the pandemic still looms over art, and is going to for the foreseeable future, and the nuances of systemic racism appears in countless remarkable works from the year. Some poems, being about nothing in particular, or not being a striking form, or not having any truly modern grasp, can seem out of place to a reader, but not when one considers the actual goals of the collection. The span of magazines and other locations the poems are sourced from is expansive, the poets diverse, and while some of the voices blend together there are also distinct standouts. A fairly accurate look into the mainstream and recognized poetry of the part year, though I always wonder what it might be like for editors to comb school journals, online indie publications, and other forms that might introduce the world at large to some new talents.
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Interesting selection of current American poets? Are these the best available? I don't know. Haven't read all of the poems in America. But the title says these are the best, so let's assume they are. Great selection regardless. ARC provided.
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I really enjoyed this collection of poetry! This collection had great variety, including many forms of poems, graphic poems, and poetic prose. I appreciated that these poems discussed contemporary issues, especially topics of social justice. This collection explored topics such as race, women's rights, American politics, COVID-19, immigration, grief, family, and substance abuse. There was at least one poem that would speak to each person reading this, but for most people, many poems will speak to them. It was fun to see familiar things from pop culture being mentioned in the poems, helping me to connect with them even more. 
Through this collection, I was introduced to many poets from whom I would like to read more. One of my favorite poems. was by Felicia Zamora, who wrote a powerful tribute to women and minorities. I also liked "The Rest is Silence" by Jason Koo, in which he discussed issues of diversity in academia. and. writing. circles. My art nerd self connected with "What Would You Ask the Artist" by Terrance Hayes. These are just a few of the poems that resonated with me. 
My only complaint about this book was that it would be great if the poet biographies were included with the poems. I would have loved to connect the poems with the person of the poet. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this collection!
Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for this ARC.
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I haven’t read much poetry since high school, but I enjoyed the variety in this collection of poems. Some are timeless and others are very specific to this moment. I particularly enjoyed Jason Koo and Oliver Baez Bendorf’s poems. This has broadened my horizons and I will definitely be putting more poetry on my tbr list.

Thanks to Scribner and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I've started reading more poetry lately, so this anthology was right up my alley! I loved reading a variety of authors.
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I have read The Best American series intermittently (Short Stories, Essays, Poems), and some of the constraints of the anthology have caused it to not work as well for me as it ought. And here's the constraint: it is alphabetical by author's last name. 

As a former MFA student who has attended her fair share of Bread Loafs and AWPs, I have always appreciated the adage that the final poem of the book is the book itself. The first poem is the table of contents. That the putting together of the sequence is as important as each individual poem. 

But of course this is a huge task and by having the alphabetizing as a default, the editors have removed the one task that might always improve the volume. I understand they have their reasons, and I respect decisions made by people much smarter than myself, but I also think this constraint has caused each volume of Best American Poetry to only reach the two- or three-star capacity.

Until the one Zapruder edited. I'm only fleetingly familiar with Matthew Zapruder's work, but after reading that welcoming introduction, one that I honestly would love to teach with my older high school students when thinking about poetry, and after seeing what he selected, you can bet I'm going to start becoming more familiar with what he himself writes as well. 

Not every poem zinged for me, but more often than not, they did. I don't know if I'm becoming a better reader of poetry or if this year's edition was really just that much better than previous years. I do not mean to bash previous years' editions or editors--so often it is right time, right place. And if I weren't such a steady, heavy reader, I would read one poem an evening, digest it, and let myself read another the next night, instead of going through the whole book in one or two sittings. 

There were threads within the volume though--mentions of masks and ICUs and race--all elements that have been at the center of important discussions as of recent. I thought a lot about the "American" aspect of the title--how, really, the anthology just asks--what, that the authors be American? that they be American publications?--but in some senses, many of these poems spoke to what it means to be American in these last few years. What we are listening to and not listening to. In many senses, this anthology has done a better job representing what it means to exist at this point in time than any other year I can remember, and Zapruder has selected some astonishingly smart and beautiful poems to do that. The work of this anthology is showing in an absolutely good way.

In many ways, I was sad it was over and I felt hungry to be in attendance to some kind of panel where five random poets from the anthology would speak to what it means to be a poet in America today. There are a lot of things I love about the Best American anthologies and that is how they not only include that brief bio, but they also include the gestation of the poem (and a list of journals where they came from, allowing other poets to keep an eye on where they send their own work). These explorations in the back of the book become just as much a treasure as the poems themselves. 

I reviewed this copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Scribner and NetGalley for making that possible! Thanks, David Lehman and Matthew Zapruder and every poet in this book (and every editor of every journal) for all of your hard work.

Note: a version of this review also appeared in the Stories of my Instagram account on 7/19/22. As of this date, I have 21.9K followers.
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thanks so much to NetGally, David Lehman, Matthew Zapruder, and Scribner for this ARC.  I always look forward to the annual Best American Poetry and i am never disappointed.  I look forward each year to finding new poetry and new to me poets.   Thank you!!!
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While I did like the variety of poetry included in this collection, and I enjoyed reading some different from my typical type of poetry, I just really failed to connect with many of the poems in this collection. I love the idea, and there were a few I did quite enjoy, but overall this was not a collection I would return to over and over, which I like to do with poetry. 

I received an eARC from Scribner through NetGalley. All opinions are 100% my own.
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Thank you to NetGalley & Scribner for a free eARC in exchange for my honest review. 
I thought this collection of poetry was decent. Some of the poems were more interesting than others, but the collection felt very one note. The anthology poems did not jump out to me and I did not read any that I would use with my students. 
Overall, the poems were depressing. I may need to wait to try more poetry further out from the pandemic, but I don't think that is the only reason it was depressing. 
My favorite poems were: Felicia Zamora's "Chris Martin Sings "Shiver" and I shiver: A Poem for Madame Vice President,"  Alina Stefanescu's "Little Time," and Louise Gluck's "Second Wind." 
They were really good, I just have read better poem anthologies. Also, a formatting thing: I wish the author bios had been near the poems themselves, so I could have the background on the poet as I read ( This is partially an ebook issue, but I wouldn't want to keep flipping back and forth in a physical book either)
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Always an amazing diverse collection of poems! I particularly enjoyed the poems by Jenny Zhang and Tiana Clark.
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Some of the formatting did not work well here as an ebook. Most of these poems did not seem like choices I would have made for a best poetry anthology, but as always poetry is tuned to an individuals tastes. Someone thought these poems should be here, so they are. None of them really touched or moved me, though some were interesting reads. Maybe I’m struggling with poetry since the pandemic started.
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A really wonderful collection of poetry.Poems carefully selected for this anthology.Poers I had already read others new to me.There were so many gems a book to dip in and out of.#netgalley #scibner
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** Thanks so much to NetGally, David Lehman, Matthew Zapruder, and Scribner for this ARC**

The Best American Poetry 2022 will be out September 13th, 2022.

I really enjoyed this anthology! Like with all anthologies, there were poems that spoke to me more or less than others. Some poems would have been 5 stars alone, while others might have been 3 or 4. It felt most appropriate to give the whole anthology a rating of 4. I enjoyed reconnecting with old favorites and finding some new ones, like E. C. Belli, James Cagney, Bill Carty, Jennifer Chang, and April Goldman.

I have read some of the other "Best ____ of ___" books before, but this was my first book of poetry. I enjoyed it a lot and will definitely try and read more!
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