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The Best American Poetry 2011: Series Editor David Lehman (Best American Poetry)

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  228 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
The latest installment of the yearly anthology of contemporary American poetry that has achieved brand-name status in the literary world.
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Scribner
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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I thought for a long time about whether I wanted to review this or if I had the capacity to do so. I feel like there are hordes of poetry fans and critical readers who are waiting in the wings to tell me I’m an idiot and that I don’t understand poetry. Anthologies are always hit and miss for people--it’s near impossible to contain something meaningful to every reader but this collection had enough poems that truly hit it out of the park for me that I felt I should at least write something about ...more
Sep 14, 2011 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, e-books
Finished. I liked this year's effort slightly better than the last few, but not enough to bump it up a star. Part of the reason for this is that Young invests a lot of pages on long poems I didn't particularly like. As always, Series Editor, David Lehman, starts things off with a 10 page Forward to Kevin Young's 6 page Introduction. I've stopped reading Lehman's junk. I just find him a Look-At-Me windbag. Young's Intro sets the table, but a little misleadingly, mentioning the economic crisis -- ...more
Bryn Donovan
Mar 27, 2013 Bryn Donovan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I expected this to be one of the better volumes in the series because Kevin Young edited it. And OK, there were some very boring poems in here and a few trite ones, but there were enough terrific ones for me to give the collection 5 stars.

Patricia Smith's sonnet sequence, "Motown Crown," is fun to read and brilliantly crafted.

James Richardson's "Even More Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays from Vectors 3.0" and Rachel Wetzsteon's "Time Pieces" really inspired me. They are both big poems made up o
Ben Pieper
Overall, I would give this collection a B average (technically an 86.1% avg.) as far as the quality of the poems contained. I know that attempting to quantify poetic effect/value is a ridiculous gesture, but I am simply a ridiculous person. Of course, this is purely based off of my own tastes and will not necessarily reflect your average satisfaction rate. I started a mission in October of 2016 to read the entire Best American Poetry series so that I can begin to get a better sense of A) what my ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Tristan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Like most "general" anthologies, this one was rather hit-or-miss. I found lots of poems I loved and a number of poems I found absolutely no worth in. There is typically little to no continuity in between adjacent poems, but this isn't really surprising given that the anthology is organized alphabetically by author's last name. As a "general" anthology, it was a success, bringing up some previously unknown names to watch for and introducing me to some very enjoyable individual poems.

Some of my fa
Oct 24, 2012 Sunni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Some powerful poems in this collection, along with several that made me wonder (along with some of my students) how these poets ever published a poem let alone got published in "The Best American Poetry." I realize editors' tastes differ from readers and that, even if one doesn't like a poem per se you can still find the craft in it, but there were a few that were so vapid and bizarre that neither the content nor the craft was engaging. Paul Muldoon, are you from outerspace? However, Sherman Ale ...more
Cheryl Gatling
I love these books. I have read most of them. People's tastes in poetry vary so widely that there will never be any consensus about what constitutes the "best." That's the advantage of having a different guest editor for each issue. Usually, if you like the work of the guest editor, you will like that editors picks. I do enjoy reading Kevin Young's work, so I found many of the poems in this anthology moving and/or memorable. They are, for the most part, what they call "accessible." I appreciate ...more
Mar 31, 2012 Mmars rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really appreciate what the annual Best American Poetry tries to do. One poet is given the honor/task of selecting poems published in various publications (books/journals) during the previous year. I have never read one from end to end, but have perused them, reading what I was interested in. I actually read this one just past halfway. I bowled my way through a couple selections, but thought most were accessible (i.e. not too post-modern.)

It could perhaps be argued that Young played it a little
Apr 06, 2012 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is the second book I read of this series dating back to 1986 I believe.
and as a poetry lover, and an amateur poet it was absolutely mesmerizing.
it shows you the roams and extents of creativity and beauty modern poetry can be, it extends to endless topics and fields and as laid out in the most creative original ways, and it was a pleasure to read.
it is emotional it is unique and it is just a plain great experience especially for young poets such as my self to see the diversity at witch poetr
Nov 07, 2011 Antonia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
There are a few really wonderful poems here and a lot more that are not so wonderful -- and many that I'm sure many people would say, not even good. The catch, of course, is that what I think were the good ones may not be the ones you'd pick. Ain't it the truth? I seem to have a bias against long poems, so wouldn't even try to comment on them. Weirdly, I thought that most of the poems whose authors' last names begin with P were quite good (e.g., Pankey, Pierce, Pollitt, Pratt). Also liked Armant ...more
Nov 14, 2011 SmarterLilac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the only Best American Poetries I've read in one sitting.

It was nice to see a collection of work from younger authors, many born in the '60s, '70s and even the '80s. I also appreciated seeing some names I've long thought should get more recognition, including Allison Joseph. There are some nice, thought provoking pieces in here, my favorite being Cara Benson's 'Banking.' This installment also has the distinction of containing a long poem I actually think was worth the space (Robert Hass'
Joan Colby
Mar 03, 2012 Joan Colby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
. I enjoyed the prefaces and many of the poems in this collection—actually one of the best of this series that I have read. Poems I particularly admired include Coffee by Matthew Dickman, August Notebook: A Death by Robert Hass, Having Intended to Merely Pick on an Oil Company, the Poem Goes Awry by Bob Hicok, The Funeral Sermon by Andrew Hudgins, Narcissus by Major Jackson, Notebooks by Alison Joseph, Word by Jude Nutter, Pillow Talk by Jeni Olin, Motown Crown by Patricia Smith, The Afterlife b ...more
Sep 24, 2011 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this yearly anthology as much for the foreword (David Lehman) and the introduction by the guest editor (Kevin Young, 2011) as I do for the poems.

Erika Meitner's poem, "Elegy with Construction Sounds, Water, Fish," stands out as exceptional, along with Alan Feldman's "In November," Sherman Alexie's "Valediction," and Natasha Tretheway's "Elegy."

Patricia Smith's "Motown Crown" is easily my favorite. I don't generally enjoy overly long poems-this one ran 7 pages-but it caught my attention f
Nov 09, 2011 Logan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usually all that I ask for in a poetry anthology is to be introduced to a couple of new writers, a handful of interesting voices begging to be heard, ones that meet me halfway to my personality but also pull me in new directions. In this collection I can only say that were were five such people that hooked me: Elizabeth Alexander, Jaswinder Bolina, Terrance Hayes, James Richardson, and Stephen Yesser. There were several others who were also good, but none that stood out as prominently in my mind ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first experience with the "Best American Poetry" series was pleasant enough. I liked a handful of poems and plan to look up their poets' works. There is plenty of variety and most of the poems are quite short, which makes for an eclectic experience.

My favorites were:
Billy Collins' "Here and There"
Jennifer Grotz's "Poppies"
James Richardson's "Even More Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays from Vectors 3.0"
Stephen Yesner's "Cycladic Idyll: An Apologia"
Jan 31, 2014 Craig rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a "best" anthology, this volume felt decidedly average to me.

Interesting thing I've realized over the last few volumes: I tend to like poems by poets with last names later in the alphabet, apparently.

Favorites from this include: Natasha Trethewey, David Wojahn, Patricia Smith, and Alan Michael Parker. Trethewey and Smith both blew me away with their poems presented here. Awesome stuff.
Kat Asharya
Apr 18, 2012 Kat Asharya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading this anthology since 1998; I found this installment to be really accessible. Of course, some poems I could care less about, others I loved, but I found Young was fairly generous in the breadth of the selection. There isn't anything too avant in it, but there's a largeness of spirit to many of the poems that I enjoyed, and I also appreciated that there was a diverse array of writers: young, people of color, older, established, new, etc.
Liz Mourant
Much better than 2010;s. More down to earth, visceral, imaginative without being too too coy as in 2010 BAP. Hooray for having better poetry and keeping my attention far more than before. Still, I wish I could love nearly all the poems instead of say...half. Poetry can't be to all of our liking though. Fairly good edition, the editor outdid himself I would say.
Jan 05, 2014 Cecilia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, poetry
Although I don't think these anthologies are the end all be all of poetry for the year, I still greatly enjoy and am moved by the poetry that is chosen. I loved the editors opening to the book, and really appreciated many of the pieces chosen. I would definitely recommend this book, especially for readers trying to get a good grasp on poetry in the last few years.
Dec 23, 2012 Markland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book introduced me to so many great poets and that's exactly what an anthology should do, rather than become a house of the dead, where the traditional names come to set up residence. Kevin Young deserves much praise for creating much order and thematic alignment in this text. If you get this, read Patricia Smith's "Motown" poem. It's magical!
Patti K
Nov 16, 2012 Patti K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This selection was guest edited by Kevin Young and is very good.
Sherman Alexie's "Valediction" is a poignant tribute to a young
suicide. And there are other good poems by Carolyn Forche,
Robert Hass, Jane Hirsfield, and Richard Wilbur. I enjoyed this
edition very much.
Dec 04, 2012 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poems
I am just starting to explore poetry, and I enjoyed this volume very much. As others have said, there are a wide range of styles and themes here, and it's unlikely any one person will like all the poems -- but I found a lot here to enjoy.
Jul 02, 2012 William is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Kevin Young's own sensibilities shine in this volume. He brings a distinctive ear to the poems, one more inclined to black poets, contemporary themes. And as is the case with his other writing, the poems are filled with verbal delights
Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)
"To abandon language is to stop
creating a place other than your own life
in which to live. It is to enter
the terrible certainty of the flesh. Even god
is only possible through language
-Jude Nutter, "Word"
Feb 17, 2012 Rose rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Ehhhh. Some standouts. A lot of so-so. If I never have to read another poem inspired by or about the 2008 election I will consider myself fortunate.
Alex Pepple
Oct 22, 2011 Alex Pepple rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This series has been going downhill year after year, and it has hit rock bottom with this issue. This must be the worst of the bunch, and it's laughable to have 'best' poetry associated with it.
Feb 01, 2012 Lily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere between a 3 and a 4 on this one, but because there were a few really stand-out poems, 3 seems too low.
Sep 27, 2011 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rachel by: Bev
Perhaps it was because I'd just gotten out of a frustrating poetry workshop, but I was fairly unimpressed with a lot of the poetry here.

I loved "Dead Ass," though :)
Jan 11, 2012 Leaflet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
It's hard to rate an anthology - most I wasn't wild about. A few I liked.
Dec 30, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, c
This is one of my favorites in the series. There's a string of a half dozen or so poems towards the beginning of this volume that I really loved.
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Best American Poetry 2011 18 30 Nov 15, 2011 02:24AM  
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David Lehman is a poet and the series editor for The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.
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