A comprehensive overview of America's vast poetic heritage, Three Centuries of American Poetry features the work of some 150 of our nation's finest writers. It includes selections from Anne Bradstreet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, e. e. cummings, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, and Gertrude Stein, as well as significant works of lesser-known American poets.
From the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to the Romantic Era and the Gilded and Modern Ages, this unrivaled anthology also presents a memorable array of rare ballads, songs, hymns, spirituals, and carols that echo through our nation's history. Highlights include Native American poems, African American writings, and the works of Quakers, colonists, Huguenots, transcendentalists, scholars, slaves, politicians, journalists, and clergymen.
These discerning selections demonstrate that the American canon of poetry is as diverse as the nation itself, and constantly evolving as we pass through time. Most important, this collection strongly reflects the peerless stylings that mark the American poetic experience as unique. Here, in one distinguished volume, are the many voices of the New World.
In the exceedingly brief, almost offhand introduction to this chunky anthology, the editors assert that "there ain't no canon," and that their aim is to hold out "an invitation to the reader of today and to those poets whose names we do not yet know." Such sloppy vagaries aside, one assumes that their intent is to represent diversity of a sort, but in fact two-thirds of the volume is made up of 19th-century poetry covered far more thoroughly in the Library of America's American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (LJ 9/1/93), and no rationale is given for the rather strange cut-off date of 1923--unless it has something to do with copyright. There are the usual heavy doses of Whitman, Dickinson, and Stevens, a smattering of spirituals, popular song lyrics, and Native American poems, along with an occasional dash of obscure names such as Ellen Sturgis Hooper and Lucretia Davidson. But given its lack of headnotes or other supporting scholarly materials, this is yet one more hastily contrived, redundant anthology no one has been waiting for. Not recommended.--Fred Muratori, Cornell University Lib., Ithaca, NY