The Consolations of Strangeness

by Charles Simic

the-consolations-of-strangenessThe After Party
by Jana Prikryl

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Tim Duggan Books, 112 pp., $15.00 (paper)

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There has been so much poetry written in the United States in the last thirty years that it has become difficult for even its most passionate readers, among whom I count myself, to pretend to have a broad, comprehensive view of the thousands of poems that have been published in books and literary magazines over that time. That was not always the case.

In the 1950s, American poetry was a small pond with a few big fish in it and others of various sizes swimming around them, so it was easy to see who was imitating whose moves, whose progeny were multiplying and whose were looking sickly. Of course, there were others too, sulking on the murky bottom of the pond and keeping their own counsel, but they were by and large invisible.

The Beat poets changed all that. They made such a splash that even high school kids were reading Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Thanks to their popularity, bars and coffee shops started having poetry readings, with colleges and universities following soon after, inviting other kinds of poets to read as well and offering them jobs to teach creative writing. Today, with thousands of graduates of writing programs publishing collections and still more graduating every year, it’s hard to believe that a book of poems can be completely original, but despite the great odds, it still happens.

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