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This article is taken from PN Review 98, Volume 20 Number 6, July - August 1994.

The Postmodernism you deserve Thom Gunn


For someone who professes to despise anthologies as much as I do, I certainly stick my nose into a lot of them. What I have against them is that they are the mere hors d'oeuvres which many readers fill up on, thus losing their appetites for the main dish - the collection by a single poet, of which only the accumulation tells you the full story. But anthologies (besides being an economy in the classroom) may be a useful indication of the way literary history is taking shape, or perhaps I mean fashion, and I am always curious about both. True, most anthologies are beneath consideration, and there seem to be more of them every year, repeating each other's mistakes; but here at last we have two good ones, good and completely different, both covering about forty years, J.D. McClatchy's Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry and Eliot Weinberger's American Poetry Since 1950, which I shall refer to as McClatchy and Weinberger from now on. It tells you something, that the former is editor of the Yale Review and the latter a contributing editor to Sulfur, and they do indeed take decidedly different attitudes about what is valuable in recent poetry, McClatchy representing the middle of the road and Weinberger what you might call the shoulders.

At fist I thought that they were reviving the anthology wars of long ago. You must remember those if you are old enough. In 1957, Donald Hall, Robert ...

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