Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jeannine Hall Gailey Reviews the Letters to the World anthology

I have to admit when I first heard about this anthology project I felt…dubious. I enjoyed being on the “Discussion of Women’s Poetry Listserv” – or “Wom-Po” – and respected the purpose that Annie Finch started the Listserv with: the idea to create a space to discuss poetry by women. But when they proposed the idea for an anthology on the list – a poem from each member who wanted to contribute, whether they had never published before or had great reputations as poets – I had my doubts that it would be a collection worth reading. I’m skeptical that way, especially about “all-inclusive” projects.

But when I received my contributor copy from Red Hen Press, I sat down expecting to just flip through it and ended up reading the whole thing, cover to cover. This anthology was better than many of the academic collections I’d looked through for classes or anthologies that tried to capture a generation or a certain kind of poetics. It was inclusive, and yes, it included poets that had never been published before – and the poems themselves were consistently and surprisingly terrific. While this review can only focus on a few examples, I have to say I was impressed with the majority of the poems that appear here – which I can’t say about many anthologies.

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