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This review is taken from PN Review 170, Volume 32 Number 6, July - August 2006.

NOW WHERE DID I PLACE THAT JAR? The Best American Poetry, Guest Editor, Paul Muldoon and Series Editor, David Lehman (Scribner Poetry) $16.00

David Lehman has been the series editor of The Best American Poetry series since 1988 and he has done yeoman's work arguing the case for poetry, as well as for a particular year's poems, through years both lean and fat. From his 'Introduction' to the 2005 edition, one gets the sense that he's tired, not of poetry but of the annual need to reassess the condition of poetry in America. This theme is a perennial trope in American letters and Lehman is a reliable and earnest barometer of the cultural atmosphere; indeed, his forewords will be valuable fodder for future writings on poetry. Lehman is an advocate for poetry - a populiser, as it were - but, as an honest reader, he cannot force himself to become a cheerleader. He begins this year's introduction with a puff about poetry's health, at least as measured by the number of anthologies published, MFAs awarded, programmes on TV, etc., etc; familiar territory. He then takes on August Kleinzahler's attack in Poetry on populism and therapeutic utilitarianism. Kleinzahler's attack was so sophomorically over the top ('bad poetry has been shown to cause lymphomas') and Lehman's response is so routine a plea for diversity as to suggest that the juice has pretty much been pulped out of this debate. Proving the point, Lehman then swerves into a recapitulation of an article in the Journal of Death Studies that showed that poets lived shorter lives than all other artists. He quotes Franz ...


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