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Review of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation

lauer_please excuse this poemPlease Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation
edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick
High School   Viking   289 pp.
3/15   978-0-670-01479-8   $16.99   g

“Most poets begin writing poetry in secret.” Poet Carolyn Forché opens her introduction to this anthology of contemporary American poetry with a shout-out to young or burgeoning poets who likely do just that — an audience that won’t be disappointed with the volume’s one hundred poems, which meander through topics and styles and, for the most part, unabashedly ignore conventions of form. The best of these poets pack punches with raw handling of timely issues, such as Terrance Hayes with “Talk” (“…like a nigger is what my white friend, M, / asked me, the two of us alone and shirtless / in the locker room…M, where ever you are, / I’d just like to say I heard it, but let it go / because I was afraid to lose our friendship / or afraid we’d lose the game — which we did anyway”) and Patricia Lockwood with her uncomfortably humorous “Rape Joke,” one of the most powerful of the bunch (“Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke”). What will appeal to teens (and new adults) the most about this anthology, and what holds it all together, however loosely, is its gritty, unapologetic sensibility, and the feeling that many of these poems were perhaps, at one point, secrets. A lengthy “about the poets” section provides biographical details and answers to such prompts as “your idea of misery.”

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is managing editor of The Horn Book Guide.

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