From the Other Side of the Century
Douglas Messerli, a poet and editor, took on the daunting task of compiling a representative selection of American and Canadian poets who have published important work since 1960. Donald Allen’s anthology THE NEW AMERICAN POETRY (1960) had set the standard for what poetry anthologies could be. Messerli wanted to organize a collection that could have the same impact and reflect where poetry is in the 1990’s in the same way that Allen’s work did for the 1960’s. As with every successful anthology, FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CENTURY makes for a wonderful starting point from which to enter the world of contemporary poetry. Had its aim been to prove that an anthology could have the last word on who and what should be codified as the poetry of the age, then this work—as all other anthologies—has failed. It is all too easy for a reader to quibble with who is included and who is not. Nevertheless, Messerli has done a remarkable job and should be commended for the overall impression left by the finished product.
The anthology is divided into four thematic sections, or as Messerli describes them “gatherings.” In the first gathering, poets who bend words around cultural issues are included. The next gathering focuses on poets who pierce what can be labeled as urban issues. The third gathering brings together the “language” poets, and the last gathering is made up of “performance” poets. There are eighty-one poets represented in FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CENTURY. Readers will have to decide for themselves which poets to embrace and which ones to run away from screaming. A good anthology is supposed to provoke, to be of its time, and to show the way into the future. FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CENTURY does all of this and more.