The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry share button
Jay Parini
Format Hardcover
Dimensions 6.48 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.63 (d)
Pages 757
Publisher Columbia University Press
Publication Date July 1995
ISBN 9780231081221
Book ISBN 10 0231081227
About Book

In the nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville suggested that the poetry of the new American democratic state, free from the staggering weight of centuries of European aristocracy and tradition, would focus on "man alone... his passions, his doubts, his rare properties and inconceivable wretchedness."

For hundreds of years, American poets have presented their various images of the land and its people. But what is "American poetry?" Is there truly such a thing as an American poetic tradition, spanning over nearly four centuries from colonial times to the turn of the millennium? In The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry, Jay Parini, a respected American poet and critic in his own right, offers an authoritative survey of the elusive category that is the poetry of the American people.

The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry covers all of the canonical American poets, from the colonial to the contemporary-Anne Bradstreet, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Adrienne Rich are all included.

But Parini has also selected a broad sampling of poetry from voices that have been heard as widely over the years. Here, for the first time, is a thorough collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry by women, Native American, and African Americans. Within these pages readers will find the many different traditions that make up the expansive collage of American poetry. Here are the Transcendentalists-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau; and the Imagists-William Carlos Williams, Amy Lowell, H.D., and Carl Sandburg.

Readers will discover also the early twentieth-century movement of African-American poetic expression, known as the Harlem Renaissance-James Weldon Johnson, Countee Cullen, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Langston Hughes are all solidly represented in The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry.

Jay Parini's introduction deftly guides us into the rich tradition of poetry in our country. Whether in search of a well-known classic or a poem that is not yet considered part of the American poetic tradition, readers will find much to enjoy in The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry.

Columbia University Press

American poetry from pre-Revolutionary times to the present excluding the work of poets born after WWII is sampled in The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry, edited by poet and teacher Jay Parini. Leading poets from three centuries are well-represented, with the works of less well-recognized writers, e.g., Frances Sargent Osgood and Alice Carey in the 19th century, Claude McKay and Jean Toomer in the 20th, sprinkled throughout. Although this is a hefty, comprehensive compilation, Parini accurately observes in his excellent introduction, "I have merely skimmed the cream, as I see it, of American poetry."


New York Times Book Review

The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry interrogates the poetic tradition of the United States and dismantles it in a manner that encourages readers to reassemble that tradition in new and provocative ways.

Harvard Review

Rich in pleasures . . . In a bright-indeed, brilliant-introduction, Parini supplies a whirlwind tour of American poetry.

Catharine R. Stimpson

Like poetry or dislike it, use and enjoy the new Columbia History of American Poetry. There are riches here for all intellects and imaginations.

Library Journal

The recent torrent of specialized anthologies spotlighting individual styles, ethnicities, periods, and themes argues for at least one new omnibus that embraces the 400-year spectrum of American poetry with ecumenism. Ranging from Anne Bradstreet to Louise Glck, editor Parini aims to represent "the main schools of poetry that have co-existed in the United States...in proportion to their influence," including more poetry by women and minorities "than one generally finds" in older anthologies. One grants him the latter assertion prima facie-pieces by neglected poets like Lone Adams and Claude McKay are welcome-but the former claim, vague as it is, invites debate, especially since the 20th-century selections seem unduly constrained by a bland, university-press conservatism. How else can one explain the presence of academic contemporaries Dave Smith and Robert Pack at the expense of important avant-garde influences such as George Oppen and William Everson? Or accept Anne Stevenson in the absence of Barbara Guest? The familiar essentials aside, such questionable inclusions and omissions render American poetry in a dimmer light than it deserves. Recommended for large collections only.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, N.Y.


To the canonical poets, from the colonial to the contemporary, Parini has added a welcome collection of 19th- and 20th-century poetry by women, Native Americans, and African Americans (including a solid representation of the Harlem Renaissance). Cavils will no doubt follow from the narrow-minded and the mean-spirited, but this is the anthology to own in our time. Essential for every collection. (RC) Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)