Poems for the Millennium Essay - Critical Essays

Poems for the Millennium, Vol. 1 (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the first volume of POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM (1995), editors Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris made it abundantly clear that they were not setting out to produce another standard anthology. They did not want to include a poet merely because he or she had won great acclaim. As envisioned by Rothenberg and Joris, both volumes of POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM should exist as a generous introduction to contemporary poets from around the world who write challenging and nontraditional poetry. The anthology should serve as a way of scratching the surface of the diverse world of poetry. It would have been beyond arrogant for the editors to have sought to produce the so-called “definitive” anthology of contemporary poetry. At 871 pages, the second volume is nothing if not generous in its selection. As with the first volume, FROM POSTWAR TO MILLENNIUM is divided into various sections. The first section, “Prelude,” includes such poets as Charles Olson, Paul Celan, and Anna Akhmatova. Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky have selections included in the second section “Continuities.”

POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM takes the reader on a journey into the profound and puzzling imaginations of some unusual poets. Within the “First Gallery” section, there are such subcategories as “The Tammuzi Poets,” “Cobra,” “Concrete Poetry,” and “Some ’Beat’ Poets.” The “Second Gallery” includes such subcategories as “Some Oral Poets,” “Postwar Japanese Poetry,” “Neo-Avanguardia,” “Some ’Language’ Poets,” “The Misty Poets,” and “Toward a Cyberpoetics.” The second volume ends with a section entitled “Postludes.” Within this last section, there are selections from Robert Duncan and the editors themselves. It must be remembered that the editors are remarkable poets in their own right. The first volume won the 1996 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. It seems very likely that the brilliant second volume will also be in the running for a prestigious award.