“This is a personal book about American poetry, but I hope it is more than a personal selection,” writes critic and poet Edward Hirsch in the introduction to this Library of America anthology with essays reflecting on forty poems that have made an impact on his life and how they might help guide and connect readers through difficult times. Featuring the work of poets such as Anne Bradstreet, Julia de Burgos, Lucille Clifton, Joy Harjo, Langston Hughes, and Phillis Wheatley, each essay both carefully contextualizes the biography of the poet with the chosen piece and analyzes in detail the language and mechanics driving the emotion behind each poem. Hirsch’s expertise and adoring relationship with verse shines through in every essay, as he makes clear why poetry matters. “There is a conversation in American poetry that is also a colloquial about American life,” writes Hirsch. “Each individual poet, wittingly or unwittingly, consciously or unconsciously, contributes to this exchange and discussion.”
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