What is not interesting is that which does not add to our knowledge of any kind; that which is vaguely conceived and loosely drawn …
—Matthew Arnold

When the poet Paul Hoover’s new anthology arrived in the mail, I was impressed first by its thickness and weight, then by its title. Postmodern American Poetry would seem to cover a great deal of ground, an entire historical period, and might alone justify the heft of the volume, leaving room for poets of many sorts and persuasions. Aren’t we all, I thought, in some way postmodern, if one understands by that the fact of coming after the first generation of moderns, whose achievement might, for some at least, seem so overwhelming as to constitute a major aesthetic barrier?

When I leafed through the anthology I found myself both surprised and disappointed. Where were the names I expected to find, and the ...


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