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The Best American Poetry 2008 (Best American Poetry)

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  173 ratings  ·  24 reviews
The Best American Poetry series is a beloved mainstay of American poetry. This year's edition was edited by one of the most admired and acclaimed poets of his generation, Charles Wright. Known for his meditative and beautiful observations of landscape, change, and time,Wright brings his particular sensibility to this year's anthology, which contains an ecumenical slant tha ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Scribner (first published 1990)
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These things are pretty much damned coming out the gate, since it's impossible to make everyone happy. All in all, I thought this was a fairly solid effort. Poems I loved, poems I hated, but more to like than dislike, with a large grouping under "Meh." Two new poets I liked: Tim Ross ("then let fall your horrible pleasure"), and Erica Dawson("Parallax"). I also liked Ciaran Berry's "Electrocuting an Elephant", and the always wild Frederick Seidel's "Evening Man."
I enjoy this series as much for the foreword and guest editor introduction as the poetry.
Mark Eleveld
Review by Mark Eleveld, published by ALA Booklist in 2008
The Best American Poetry 2008 - Charles Wright, Editor - David Lehman, Series Editor
September 2008 – Scribner- Paperback: 16.00 - ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-9975-6

The gamble David Lehman made 21 years ago was that there was a large enough audience of poetry readers to care about an annual anthology of the Best American Poetry. If time is th
e test, he won the bet. In Lehman’s foreword, he argues that awards and publications aside, poetry shou
Every year, this book seems to closely reflect the guest editor's own aesthetic, and when I first picked up this year's volume, I noticed that a lot of the poems have long lines like Charles Wright's. The collection is a bit more broad than that, though. Although there isn't as high a concentration of "experimental" poems as when Heather McHugh or Lyn Heijinian edited, Brenda Hillman, Michael Palmer, and Jorie Graham coexist, here, with Maxine Kumin, Tony Hoagland, and Richard Howard. The collec ...more
I don't really want to talk about why I'm reading so much poetry lately, okay? It doesn't matter. In any case, this volume was a let-down. There was one truly spectacular poem in the whole collection - John Rybicki, Three Lanterns. There were a few pretty good poems by David St. John, Mary Karr, Kate Daniels and, (surprisingly?) Patti Smith. But the biggest let-downs were the poems by the supposed hot-shots: Natasha Trethewey, W.S. Merwin, Charles Simic. I suppose it goes without saying that the ...more
Timothy Juhl
Not much stood out in this selection, supposedly the best of 2008. What I really cannot stand about these annual collections is the host of familiar names that always seem to have written one of the better poems that year, once again causing me to disparage the academic world of poetry.

Not to say there weren't moments of brilliance, among them Carolyn Forche, Patti Smith (yes, that Patti Smith), but the best poem came from Debra Nystrom in 'Every Night' and her intense poem from a men's prison c
Linda Hollingsworth
This is a wonderful collection for anyone who likes to read poetry. Rarely does a reader take to every poem included in such a collection, but often a second reading or even reading poems aloud can change one's response; I found that to be true with this collection. Charles Wright is probably one of the most qualified poets to make these choices. Reading a collection like this can set the reader on a "see" journey riding both dark and light-filled swells on a vast expanse of perception.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Is this my least favorite best American poetry collection? Yes, I think it is. I was pretty sure I’d not take to this collection when I saw the name of the editor; I’m not a big fan of Charles Wright.

The vast majority of the poems struck a Hemingway-esque note with me, a macho man trying to make it in this kinder, gentler world. But here and there, I found a common spirit. How can I read fifty poems and not find a few that light up my heart?! Impossible.
Sep 25, 2008 Phayvanh rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all poets
Recommended to Phayvanh by: bookstore browse
Shelves: reviews, poetry, 2008
What a nice, refreshing breath of air. Gust of storm wind. Lush ocean breeze, heavy with secrets.

Charles Wright picks out poems with stories at their heart, poems that play with language and form and poems that respond to the classics from where we sit in the modern world.

My favorite pieces (so far) are:
"Evening Song" ~ Tom Andrews
"Men" ~ Lydia Davis
"Rock Polisher" ~ Chris Forhan
"Divide and Conquer" ~ Alan Sullivan
"Sepsis" ~ C. Dale Young
As always with collections of this nature, I enjoyed some poems very much and others not at all. But as a whole, this collection is quite strong. As I tend to read mostly Canadian poets, I enjoyed reading the work of some contemporary US poets. And I enjoyed the poets' statements about the poems included in the book, which were included with the bios at the back - some were incredibly interesting.
Ok, I am horrified. One of the poems included in this book is titled Electrocuting an Elephant, by Ciaran Berry. I couldn't believe what I was reading, so I Googled elephant electrocution.

Thomas Edison filmed the January 4, 1903 execution/electrocution. There is a video on this website (not the top image, but the lower video).
I think last year's volume was more consistent in its overall quality. There are a few standouts and some real stinkers.

Charles Wright comes across as a religious/spiritual man (I don't know much about him, honestly) and I noticed a such trend within the content of many of the poems here. For better or worse I guess...
While these are well crafted poems, I found this collection to be so-so. I'm not a devoted poetry follower, so these 75 poems are my best effort at keeping the smallest bit up-to-date each year. While I enjoyed many, there are none that have stayed in my memory. Perhaps next year's volume will be more remarkable.
Apr 06, 2010 Rebecca added it
Shelves: perused
I really enjoyed my first foray into poetry. I was recently traveling which offered some contemplative time for this sort of reading. I liked the way reading poems slowed down and opened my reading brain. I felt like I was using new synapses. Particularly enjoyed a poem by Bob Hicok. Am hoping to keep reading poetry.
When I worked as an editor for a literary journal I often looked to the Best American Series for introductions to new writers. Over the years an indispensable guide for me. This new issue has a lovely poem by the late Tom Andrews, a poet whose work I published and greatly admire(d).
Ingrid Keir
It is always interesting to see what is picked by an editor as "the best" for the year. Usually I have dismissed the New Yorker poems as snory bory, but they actually had some goodies this year, primarily one written by Patti Smith about the Virginia Tech shooting.

Read this after Iris Rinkehammer leant it to me to read what she called a "dirty" poem. I thought I had given up on this series...this one's a fair anthology--not fantastic, but much better than it's been in the past few years.

This was a nice collection. Like any poetry collection with various authors, there were hits and misses. It was definitely better than 2007's selection though.
I buy this anthology every year, provides a wide selection of poetry being published. Some years are better than others, depends on who is the chosen guest editor.
This edition is truly stunning. Perhaps my favorite of the Best American Poetries, I feel I will be enjoying this one through many re-reads.
Beautiful collection. Really nice to have the poems accompanied by comments from the writers in the back.
Apparently I am not down with what is cool, because I was not so into these poems.
Nov 19, 2010 Tami added it
Shelves: poetry
Judging by this anthology, 2008 wasn't a great year for American poetry.
This had a lot of crappy poems and a couple of home runs.
Catherine Mahoney
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