Twenty-six years ago, three American poets—I was one of them—put together The New Poets of England and America. We paired poets of the two countries in one alphabetical order, as if “England and America” shared a common enterprise. No longer would anthologists suggest such a thing. Of the twenty poets in this new Penguin Contemporary British Poetry1—aged thirty-two to fifty—only Seamus Heaney is known in the United States.

In the late Fifties, it was common for English critics to lament that poetic vitality had departed imperial shores and emigrated to this half-savage country. Americans tended to accept this view, largely flattering although spiced with condescension. But by 1983, few Britons care for contemporary American poetry; the excellent English...


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