Posts Tagged ‘elizabeth hun schmidt’

Above all, the poets that touch down every year or two in the Library of Congress are the gatekeepers of the American idiom.  …  Some poets believe that original use of language can shape the public imagination and thereby influence public values and policy; to some, the greatest expression of liberty is the ability to stand to the side and observe, dream, remember, and testify.

(from The Poets Laureate Anthology, introduction by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt, pages xlix-l)

The Poets Laureate Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt with a foreword by Billy Collins, is the perfect collection for poetry lovers, as well as those dipping their toes into the genre.  The book features a handful of poems from each of the 43 U.S. Poets Laureate who have held the position from 1937 to 2010, starting with the most recent poet laureate and working backward.  There is a photo and a short bio of each poet laureate, along with a quote from them.  As Billy Collins (poet laureate from 2001-2003) says in the foreword, the book can be read at one’s leisure and out of order.

One of the most interesting parts of The Poets Laureate Anthology is the foreword by Billy Collins, who talks about how various poets laureate used the position to raise public awareness of poetry or kept out of the public eye, given that they are under no obligation to write poems.  The introduction by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt is equally informative, explaining the history of the position and how the Librarian of Congress — not the President — appoints the poet laureate.  She goes on to say that each poet laureate has made the job his/her own, with their personalities a major factor in how they approach the job.

Schmidt points out that the anthology contains different voices and styles, calling it “a celebration of freedom of speech in motion” (page xlix).  With so many poets and poems to choose from, there is something for everyone in this anthology.  I recognized many of the poets and poems in the book, including Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, Robert Penn Warren, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maxine Kumin, William Stafford, Robert Frost, and Elizabeth Bishop.  I was delighted to revisit the poetry of Ted Kooser, having recently reviewed his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Delights & Shadows.  I learned some interesting tidbits about some of the poets, including Louise Glück, who refused to do interviews or public appearances as poet laureate in an effort to “control her words” (page 86).

The Poets Laureate Anthology really is a poetry collection for everyone.  Many people avoid reading poetry because they think it doesn’t speak to them or is too hard to understand, but Ted Kooser, for instance, writes poetry for the average person.  At over 700 pages, the anthology is comprehensive enough that I am confident anyone could peruse the book and find at least one poem that would change their views about poetry.  After all, as Schmidt says in the introduction, “…the only official job in the arts in the United States is for a poet” (page xlv).

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Poets Laureate Anthology from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, LLC, for review purposes. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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