Will I sleep? Will I dream of anthologies?
So here’s my dream:
The Poetry Foundation would fund the creation of an anthology of contemporary American poetry that would be edited by a board of diverse (aesthetically antagonistic, even) editors to attempt an accurate representation of the poetry that’s been written over the past 25 years, from Ai to Zapruder.
The anthology would contain no apparatus or introductions. It would be raw data, just “representative poems” that would be chosen by the editors, and then donated by the poets or their estates for free to the project.
The editorship would be the editors of several aesthetically diverse literary journals, and/or, it could be editors of aesthetically diverse presses, or it could be Don Share, Stephen Burt, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Cole Swensen, or Ron Silliman, Dana Gioia, Rebecca Wolff, and Natasha Trethewey. (You get the point. But, I would recommend that the editors remain anonymous.)
The anthology would be sold as a paperback at printing cost (which I’m guessing would be at most $7.00 or so a copy), and be distributed for free to libraries, local arts agencies, museums, and high schools. All members of AWP who teach poetry would agree to purchase this anthology for use in their creative writing classes at least once. Also, I think Robert Pinsky had an idea similar to this, years ago? He was looking for a way to get anthologies of poetry into hotel rooms? We should float that idea again. And there must be someone out there who knows how to get books into Walmart stores?
There is a lot of power in The Poetry Foundation. But there is also a lot of potential power in AWP, as well as the Poet Laureate who could talk up the anthology to Jeffrey Brown and various newspapers. And the First Lady. I bet she'd like this.
And, as such dreams go, it’s both utopian and would never happen. But doesn’t it sound at least a little fun?
In a related issue, I think The Poetry Foundation should fund the creation of an application for ereaders that wraps text properly for poetry. Unless someone has already done this? I don’t have an ereader, because when I looked at some, the poetry just looked awful. Has that been fixed yet?