Poems for the Millennium (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction) - Essay

Poems for the Millennium (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Both Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris are respected poets and anthologists. Although they have shown themselves to possess keen poetic and editorial sensibilities in their past projects, POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM ranks as a supremely heroic effort. In this first volume of a projected two-volume anthology, Rothenberg and Joris have managed to compile a selection of world poetry that gives voice to the inventiveness of twentieth century modern poetry. The editors have delineated their approach to the project in the volume’s illuminating introduction. POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM has been given historical breadth with the inclusion of poets who the editors rightly call “Forerunners.” It is the contention of Rothenberg and Joris that such nineteenth century poets as William Blake, Walt Whitman, Charles Baudelaire, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Arthur Rimbaud, and others opened the door to the experiments in both form and tone that would become the hallmark of twentieth century poetry throughout the world.

While there are a number of poets included in the volume who did not belong to one particular school of poetry, the majority of poets included were at one time or another aligned with such movements as Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, Objectivism, and Negritude. For those poets who cannot be grouped into one of these movements, the editors have divided these poets into three sections or what the editors call “galleries.”

POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM is a celebration of poets who ventured into uncharted territory in order to breathe life into poetic expression. The value of this anthology has been enhanced by the inclusion of commentary after each poet. In addition to the stimulating and sometimes provocative commentary, the editors have also written short prologues to introduce each section of the volume. These prologues help to put each poetic movement in historical perspective. While it is possible to quibble with the selection process of this or any anthology, POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM must be looked at as a towering achievement and the second volume is eagerly awaited.