Rita Dove, a scholar and former poet laureate in the USa , included previously unanthologized women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, alongside recognised luminaries in the anthology but Helen Vendler, professor of poetry at Harvard and herself an editor of several anthologies took a dim view of the line-up.
In the Nov. 24 New York Review of books Vendler reviewed the new book, taking Dove to task in terms she may live to regret. “Why,” she wonders in an especially combustible line, “are we being asked to sample so many poets of little or no lasting value.”
The controversy has been lighting up the blogosphere on both sides of the Atlantic. Here, Marguerite Maria Rivas wades in with her take on the issue.
An interesting piece.
The author is dismayed (rightly so) that there are still academics having this discussion. But there are still academics in many disciplines having discussions that most of the rest of the world no longer has (if it ever did.) Academe is a cosy place to be.
Vendler’s complaint that various black poets have been included to the possible detriment of “better-known authors” is silly. Some of those black poets have been unfairly excluded previously. And better-known authors already have their place in the sun, appearing as they do almost inevitably in most of the OTHER anthologies. And in most of the seminars, and at most of the academic conventions, and in most of the discourse spoken and written that is generated by such anthologies, seminars and conventions.
I rather like coming across an anthology or a magazine that doesn’t just bow to the well-known names. Because I get to read poems as poems, without being blinded by the mystique that can hang around a poet.