The broad range of styles and topics in this collection fulfil not only its stated purpose of showing younger generations poetry is relevant to them, but also makes it a joy to readers of all ages who have never doubted the power of words and rhythm.
The anthology contains works by Gary Back, Gary Beck, Joschua Beres, Kristen Berger, Michael Brownstein, Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto, Raphael Cohen, Susan Dale, Doug Draime, John Flynn, Lauren Frament, Chrissie Gittins, Allison Grayhurst, Stephanie Guo, Kallima Hamilton, Dan Hedges, Kyle Hemmings, Jnana Hodson, Nathan Hondros, Paul Hostovsky, Evan Iresmith, Joseph Kees, Roger Kees, Samuel McGrath, Alain Marciano, Louis Marvin, Laura Minning, Mark Murphey, Rodney Nelson, Seymour Roth, Sy Roth, Benjamin Saphiro, James Schwartz, and Adam Steiner.
Of the 51 works within some are unquestionably poetry or prose, but many refuse to conform to simple division of one or the other, leaving the reader to decide whether, for example, Hemmings’ Indivisible Monkeys #1-5 is prose because the stream of consciousness is how people really speak, or poetry because it dances free of grammar and syntax.
He brushes the sidewalks
Corn-husked whisk broom
Swishing mechanically back and forth
Vestiges tattooed to the earth.
– Righteous Forfeiture, Seymour Roth
Walton is not afraid to include attacks on the world of poetry; works such as Saphiro’s Literary Establishment savage the pretensions of those who want to be seen to read literature, both playing to the target audience’s preconceptions and establishing common ground.
This assault on fakes is expanded to many other aspects of life in poems such as Iresmith’s Diorama Heartsmoke, Carolina Gray and Beres’ Behold A Son of Revolution! Conversely, Marvin’s Avalon Nightmares and Alain Marciano’s The Family show the fake as a victim of surroundings, needing help not hatred.
As with Walton’s other anthologies many works sit at the edges of language, using it as much to challenge lies as reveal truths. This is perhaps most obvious in the use of obliques throughout Steiner’s The Wasters Come Alive creating a sense of choice while simultaneously revealing it to be limited to a short list.
I don’t know/don’t understand/don’t pretend to care/a
tumble of swears/chips away at empathy/sympathy, without
hope, is just a useless end/and the future degraded/but in
the broken bottle aisle/reflecting metal grin/louder and /
to rise above ignorance/to stand out above your own noise /
with no quiet moment to reflect
– The Wasters Come Alive, Adam Steiner
Others, such as Dale’s Ghosts and Dreams use the soft accessible language sometimes scathingly deemed real poetry to weave journeys in which both the comforts of modern life and youthful rebellion are revealed as merely veneers over a steadily crumbling reality.
With so many works, this is not a collection for reading in a single sitting. Although this might tempt the reader to cherry pick by skimming, Walton has chosen works that start powerfully, drawing the reader in rather than letting them pass. While I did not feel the same joy at each of the works, I would not expect so many works to all resonate deeply. This speaks to Walton’s skill in choosing a range of works to give the anthology a greater strength and accessibility; each time the reader returns they find new messages replacing the old.
I will definitely return to this collection. I recommend it both to those who already love poetry and those who wonder if it is more than what they read at school.