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Don't Tell My Boss: I've Been Sneaking Poetry

by Staff


Tags: Best American Poetry poems reading poetry Utne Reader library independent publishing,

You know what I did last night?

I’m nearly hesitant to confess: I curled up with a book of poetry. Not just any book, either. One of the books of poetry, a big book of poetry: The Best American Poetry 2007. For whatever has been, could and can be said about anthologies—their limitations, biases, and oversights—this series never fails to delight me.

Even as I was reading, I could barely contain my excitement. Poems! Christian Bök’s “Vowels” dared me to read it aloud: “loveless vessels / we vow / solo love / we see / love solve loss…,” and Galway Kinnell’s tiny poem, “Hide-and-Seek, 1933,” summoned a twist of giddy nostalgia.

Reading poems felt luxurious, almost strange, and I realized: I haven’t been reading much poetry these days. For the past couple of years, I’ve been permanently on the hunt for the next great essay or article to reprint in Utne Reader’s pages. We generally don’t reprint fiction or poetry (preferring to leave those areas to their experts), and it seems I’d gotten in the habit of overlooking the stuff.

Brazenly overlooking, apparently. In the index of magazines where the 75 poems were first published, I spotted no less than 21 titles familiar from the Utne Reader library: Alaska Quarterly Review, Antioch Review, BOMB, Bookforum, Colorado Review, Conduit, Fence, Five Points, Hanging Loose, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, New Letters, Ploughshares, Poetry, Raritan, Sacramento News & Review, Southwest Review, TriQuarterly, and Virginia Quarterly Review.

Seeing a slew of independent publications represented in such a big-time anthology of contemporary verse only deepened my appreciation of the 20-year-old series, and moved me to wonder if it wasn’t some small reflection of how lively and accessible this year's lineup is, selected by guest editor Heather McHugh.

Julie Hanus