Some Reflections on The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century Poetry (2011)

Rita Dove’s new Penguin anthology has made Amazon’s “Best Books of 2011” list; while the “bestness” of the book is dubious to say the least, the Dove anthology is surely part of the “best” or at least most notable literary controversies of 2011.  The controversy began with Helen Vendler’s scathing review of the anthology in the November 24, 2011 issue of  The New York Review of Books; Dove has since responded in a letter to the editor and publications such as the The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Guardian have picked up the story.  The argument has truly been an ugly one and  Vendler winds up looking like a racist curmudgeon,  Dove winds up looking like an irresponsible anthologist (and less than eloquent defender of the poets she loves), and Penguin winds up looking absolutely fraudulent in its packaging of the anthology.

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