Soaring and raw, these poems 'better' American Poetry by battering down racial pieties of our white neoliberal nation. This anthology is an explosive Cri de Coeur of these times.
- Cathy Park Hong
Bettering American Poetry is verse of the most urgent kind. In this moment of rising fear and resentment these poets write with a deep regard for all peoples. This is the kind of work that will take us through the next 4 years and the next 100.
- Nate Marshall
Thank you, editors, thank you, authors for utterly rearranging my cells. This is the only anthology with the word "American" I want to be a part of. A series I will return to, giddy. How desperately I need to experience how big a poem can be—what a gift you've given us—I'm beaming at you, poets—brutal and honey, whiplash and cry.
The “best” hides the subjective goals and values of the few determining what work should receive visibility and reward. The “best” implies that some voices should be prioritized over others. We wish to challenge the idea that a few gatekeepers should oversee the publishing order each year by actively defining and maintaining a hierarchy of voices, an order that replicates the status quo that tokenizes and marginalizes difference.
We feel that to “better” American poetry is to jam dominant systems of taste to the best of our abilities, and to resignify the very phrase “American poetry” with the languages that it so desperately lacks. We intend to center voices of resistance, subjectivities that emerge from the radical margins, artists whose Americanness transcends nationalism and other borders, perspectives historically denied institutional backing—in short, poets and poetries that are urgent and necessary but do not get along nicely with Power.
And in this process, we recognize that “bettering” is, always, an ongoing act: it is a struggle against the obliterating forces of American history, politics, imagination and poetics. We don’t pretend it is possible to have finished bettering American poetry, which is why we dedicate ourselves to the task anew, daily. This anthology series represents just one, concerted, living effort to better American poetry, but it is one that we hope will resonate.