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American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  338 ratings  ·  47 reviews
As Cole Swensen argues in the introduction to this comprehensive new anthology, the long-acknowledged "fundamental division" between experimental and traditional is disappearing in American poetry in favor of hybrid approaches that blend trends from accessible lyricism to linguistic exploration. The focus in American Hybrid is on the blend; the more than seventy poets feat ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published March 30th 2009 by W. W. Norton Company
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May 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Could also be titled: Experiment for Experiment's Sake.

I only got through 2/3 of the book (has to go back to my local library) but what I did read was very mixed. My chief concern with this anthology is how it breaks down the tensions in United States Poetry to a "fundamental division" between narrative and experimental texts when all that is explored in this volume is the negotiation between variations in U.S. English non-linear narrative in contemporary academic poetry without putting any focu
Jesse De Angelis
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
I think the percentage of poems I liked was somewhere around maybe 10% - which isn't awful for any anthology this big - but the stuff I didn't like I really didn't like.

I feel like a square for articulating this, but I just don't think that there's very much actually happening in a lot of this "experimental" poetry. I sort of distrust that word in general - do these experiments provide results? what are they? showing your work is fine, but I guess I also want to know what conclusions these exper
Jul 25, 2009 rated it liked it
There's some good work here--and not the usual anthology pieces. Of course, that's the point of the book. I was surprised to like Jorie Graham's selection so much. As with any anthology of this scope, few people will have a palette broad enough to stomach everything. That is, some of the poems are simply not to my taste. As I read many of the poems, I think of the last line of A. D. Melville's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 1. Referring to Phaethon, Ovid writes: "Great was his fall, y ...more
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, school
I gave this book five stars because it really opened my eyes to a new way of looking at poetry. It was the text for a poetry class I took, and I learned a lot just from the few sections and pieces that we read. I tried my hand at writing with some of the styles presented, and I was introduced to poets I should have known but had never been introduced to. This is definitely not poetry we were taught to memorize in school, which is a bit refreshing as well as uncomfortable all at the same time. Go ...more
Heather Gibbons
Jun 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching
A timely, somewhat controversial, and much-needed anthology of many wonderful contemporary American poets. I don't always agree with the editors' selections, but I'm so glad this anthology exists. I'm tired of trying to teach from anthologies that claim to be contemporary yet contain mostly poets from the 1950s-60s-- and only a narrow, rather conservative slice of their generation at that. ...more
CX Dillhunt
Mar 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
disturbing introduction--it's inaccurate, simplistic, & opportunistic; a clever title, but doesn't hold up, needs much more thought; neither the collection itself nor the shabbily written intro/premise seem that many poems are hybrids, but no one set out to write them, & the academic/avant-garde dichotomy is foolish as best to hold up as the "non-argument" ...more
Ann Woodlief
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
This collection of poetry (mostly current) is beyond me! I may be too old to "get it." The poets mostly teach in MFA programs, so I don't have a lot of hope for the future of poetry. Also, this is a Norton anthology, sure to be taught often in colleges. Sigh! ...more
Savannah Wilson
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is the the perfect example of awful and pretentious poetry that makes nearly zero sense for the sake of seeming intelligent and deep. There were maybe a dozen poems out of the 500 pages of this book that I liked.
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Best anthology I've seen. ...more
May 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
The worst use of the term "hybrid" ever! ...more
Leigh Ann
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This mix of poems feels important. It chronicles a historical shift in American poetry that, according to the introduction, later generations (including mine) will have forgotten.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
A truly beautiful anthology of poetry and prose,loved this and read over a two day period. Heartfelt poignant and engaging.,
Erin Powe
not a fan of this stuff. Makes me love George Herbert even more.
Apr 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
While I haven't read every poem (yet), the selection made by my professor wasn't too favorable by me. It's highly inaccessible, but there were also poets I enjoyed and whose work I could access and read and enjoy and I feel that if a work is inaccessible, it is unenjoyable and unreadable. ...more
Elizabeth Dubin
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
The editors Cole Swensen and David St. John make the argument that American poetry in the 21st century is less marked by an experimental / traditional split that characterized the 20th century, but rather functions as a hybrid blending both impulses into new poetic territories. Hank Lazer wrote a book of poetry considering this in the 1990s called "DoubleSpace".

Swensen's introductory essay is a nice summary of contemporary American poetry and invokes (without citing) deleuzoguattarian theory (r
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
In their introductions, editors Swensen and St. John, both accomplished and forward-thinking poets, outline the contention that spurred this anthology: for a long time, poetry has been divided, or has divided itself, into two basic camps, traditional and experimental. In contemporary American poetry, the editors argue, and the poets collected here demonstrate, these distinctions no longer make sense, as poets now draw equally from both traditions, often in the same poem.

All of the poems in this
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
anthologies are always so hard to rate. there were some snoozers and just utter crap, but there were some beauties that changed the way I see.

because these poems are so experimental, they seemed to me more about the process and experience of reading than finished works. most of the selections hinted at deeper meanings and more realized ideas somewhere beneath the surface, but hadn't quite figured out how to translate their visions. reading these poems feels like looking through artist sketchboo
Andrea Slot
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I used this for an upper level poetry workshop but was a little disappointed at the limitations of the book. I think many poems could be called "hybrid" in the contemporary poetry scene today, and so I think the book needed to be guided by a much clearer definition of just what a "hybrid" poem is. Then the poems chosen could have better reflected that clear definition. Instead the poems seemed to have been somewhat arbitrarily thrown together. I also felt the poems ultimately erred on the langua ...more
Apr 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This book is gorgeous. There are pages and pages of brilliance from multiple contemporary poets I have never even heard of (although it also has quite a few of my favorite poets as well). In my opinion, this anthology is the who is who of poetry for the next ten years. A great recommend for poetry fanatics, or anyone who wants a taste of what great contemporary poetry looks like.

This is my pick for best poetry anthology of the year. And the exterior is pretty. Which, let's face it, is a pretty b
Apr 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Probably would not recommend this to someone who is new to poetry, but for people like me who dig it & want a good perspective on what's hip w/the biggies right now, this was a pretty good starting point. Anthologies are not my favorite way to read poetry (prefer to read from a book the author composed, rather than selections from different works), & at times the selections seemed scattered. But still! Poetry is cool! Best read in chunks instead of all at once, I'd say. ...more
Jun 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent anthology. I judge these types of books by how many new authors I discover through it who I want to explore further and this one hit the pay dirt. Not quite the magical mothership of the Anthology of New York Poets edited by Ron Padgett, but that one I read in my wild-eyed poetic youth and it's full of scribes who will live forever.
This book also has nice informative one page biographies/introductions to each author that gives the reader a good context for their work.
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
The introduction itself is worth the price of this beautiful anthology of American poetry today. In the intro, Swensen sums up how the divisions of American poetry merged into what we have today--an eclectic mode of where tradition meets experimentation. Then the fun starts with an introduction of each poet and a sample of her or his work. A must!
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I really dislike the cover of this book and hope the innards are much better.

Well, I only got about halfway through this collection before returning it to the library--and based on what I read, I'd give it about 3 1/4 stars.

Overall, it seemed a little too disembobied for the likes of me. I'm not a big fan of disembobied narratives. I'm too busy hyperventilating inside of bodies.
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Last Monday I listened to David St. John, one of American Hybrids' co-editors, discuss the anthology and its origins at the Napa Writers Conference. He re-inspired me to explore these poems and poets. Diverse. Interesting. Baffling. Frustrating. Everyone is represented! The highlight, so far, is discovering a poem by Norman Dubie, "Of Politics, & Art." Wow. ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The book is a must read for any poet or lover of poetry. The writers included in this anthology are than playing with form or structure. They are redefining the capacity of poetry. For writers, the book opens whole worlds of possibility in the voices that can be used, the way a poem can be presented, and many other things.
May 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm not finished with this book yet, but so far it is an incredible collection of contemporary poetry. The introduction is thought provoking and I enjoyed the entries from Robert Hass, Susan Stewart, and Donald Revell. ...more
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Hard to see what this anthology is a hybrid of, and even harder to see what's new about it. I enjoyed some of the work represented here, but the selection is pretty conservatively limited to older established poets, much of whose work was never new and is now pretty stale. ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
Hybrid poems, ugh. I tried, I really did. But, it just feels like floundering about. I repsect the drive to be new and different. But sometimes too much change, makes it be something else, other than what it's meant to be. ...more
Ron Henry
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a great collection. I read through it quickly and admire most of the work in it. This last year I've been keeping it tucked away on the shelf of my nightstand, and open it randomly for inspiration. ...more
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Cole Swensen (b. 1955— ) in Kentfield near San Francisco, Swensen was awarded a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and is the author of over ten poetry collections and as many translations of works from the French. A translator, editor, copywriter, and teacher, she received her B.A. and M.A. from San Francisco State University and a Ph. D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Santa ...more

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