Monday, September 24, 2012

Which black poets appear most frequently in "the best" American Poetry series?

At some point, I'll have to ask my students which poets of the ones we've been reading have made frequent recent appearances in those annual Best American Poetry anthologies. In particular, which black poets have appeared the most over the last 10 years in those anthologies?

Before I can ask them, however, I'll have to get a more accurate count myself. For now, it's my sense that Terrance Hayes, Natasha Trethewey, and Kevin Young have been the most frequently included African American poets. Between 2008 and 2012 alone, at least two of them and sometimes all three of that group appeared in the series.

At the rate that things are going, I suspect that editors will be somewhat obligated to look around for the poems of Hayes, Trethewey, and Young when the assembling process takes place each year. Or for the time period, their absence in a given year may seem surprising.

I enjoy works by all three of those poets, and most folks who follow my work here know that I frequently write about Young. Nonetheless, I'm inclined to wonder and worry what it means that a wider range of African American poets have not appeared in those anthologies. In particular, I wonder and worry if Hayes, Trethewey, and Young have become stand-ins for "diversity" in American poetry. Are they consistently producing "the best" poems, or are they, more importantly, the black poets most available to editors of the Best American Poetry  series?

There's more to say on this topic, but at the moment, there are classes to teach, papers to grade.

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