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The 2020 edition of contemporary American poetry returns, guest edited by Paisley Rekdal, the award-winning poet and author of Nightingale, proving that this is “a ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune).

Since 1988, The Best American Poetry anthology series has been “one of the mainstays of the poetry publication world” (Academy of American Poets). Each volume in the series presents some of the year’s most remarkable poems and poets.

Now, the 2020 edition is guest edited by Utah’s Poet Laureate Paisely Rekdal, called “a poet of observation and history...[who] revels in detail but writes vast, moral poems that help us live in a world of contraries” by the Los Angeles Times. In The Best American Poetry 2020, she has selected a fascinating array of work that speaks eloquently to the “contraries” of our present moment in time.

About the Author

David Lehman, the series editor of The Best American Poetry, is also the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. His eleven books of poetry include  Playlist, Poems in the Manner OfNew and Selected PoemsWhen a Woman Loves a Man, and  The Daily Mirror. The most recent of his many nonfiction books is One Hundred Autobiographies  A Memoir. He lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
179 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Gordon Hilgers
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Vast Improvement From 2019''s
Reviewed in the United States on December 14, 2020
I find a great deal of comfort in reading many of these poems, much of the time even happiness. However, some of the poems speak of world-weariness unimaginable to this veteran of five years of homelessness, a person who lives with Bipolar and also who survived leukemia.... See more
I find a great deal of comfort in reading many of these poems, much of the time even happiness. However, some of the poems speak of world-weariness unimaginable to this veteran of five years of homelessness, a person who lives with Bipolar and also who survived leukemia. Then, when I flip to the back of the volume to read about the lives of the poets included, I see that many of them are much younger than I am, and most are university professors. Nothing wrong with that. Oddly, some of these poems seem to follow a dictum established by one cartoonist Lynda Barry, one of those "alternative cartoonists" who skewered poets and poetry a time or two: something about running away from the circus and living on picnic scraps at the beach until you die. While there is always room to be angry with one''s country, one thing I do know despite my lack of an MFA is that I simply would not have survived had I dwelt on televised reality as if it''s better or more important than what I see out my window. I got the impression that some of these poems were a little like the strange contradictory quality in seeing Palestinian teenagers brandishing DEATH TO AMERICA banners while wearing Adidas and Nike. Of course, I like shocking people with garish reactions to what I see on TV. Even if Olivia Benson is my spirit animal.

Perhaps this is what happens when people in the scholastic world "go outlaw". Who knows? I used to like to shock the lightning out of people when I was 25. Now I see I was merely seeking to assert my importance to a world of strangers.

Maybe, as I continue to mature throughout my practically purloined adulthood, I just "see stuff" that the experts don''t. This volume isn''t nearly as shock-worthy as last year''s version. I get the impression with all this shock and recoil into violence that many exceptionally well-versed individuals feel alienated, empty, at-odds and in dire need of expressing that.

Then there are the poems devoted to quotidian beauty. That''s why I read poetry. It''s why I write it too.
17 people found this helpful
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Justin Evans
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Very Solid Entry
Reviewed in the United States on October 1, 2020
Paisley Rekdal (Utah''s current Poet Laureate) puts together a very solid collection of poems for this entry into the BAP series. 2020 is a year to remember and the wide-ranging selections not only show diversity among the poets but diversity in the contemporary aesthetic of... See more
Paisley Rekdal (Utah''s current Poet Laureate) puts together a very solid collection of poems for this entry into the BAP series. 2020 is a year to remember and the wide-ranging selections not only show diversity among the poets but diversity in the contemporary aesthetic of poetry itself. I was pleased to see many familiar names and some poets I have admired for a long time included in the collection, but I was even more pleased to see many new poets to discover, which is what I think this series is supposed to excel at, though has not always done so. I can also say this is the first time I have taken so much delight in the editor''s introduction. Often perfunctory, Rekdal takes on her entry with an energy and sense of purpose that I have not seen before. This purchase was certainly worth my money.
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Henry McCarthy
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
good collection
Reviewed in the United States on October 7, 2020
Are they really the best poems of the year? I don''t know. But there are some very good poems here, and you get an idea of what''s going on in the poetry world. And the reader can tell that the collection was assembled with thought and care.
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Charles W. Behrens
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Exceeded expectations
Reviewed in the United States on January 2, 2021
Completely satisfied. Delivered on time and in excellent condition
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Stephanie Tedford
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great product
Reviewed in the United States on January 6, 2021
Bought this for my father in law for Christmas. He really enjoyed the book. Delivered on time!
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jazxr
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent condition and delivery
Reviewed in the United States on December 5, 2020
Excellent condition and delivery
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Fire Moon Rage
4.0 out of 5 stars
4 stars
Reviewed in the United States on September 8, 2020
The Best American Poetry 2020 skews more toward the academic reader with an extensive forward and introduction. The poetry collection includes works by dozens of accomplished and notable poets that are quintessentially American in their diversity. It is not a work meant for... See more
The Best American Poetry 2020 skews more toward the academic reader with an extensive forward and introduction. The poetry collection includes works by dozens of accomplished and notable poets that are quintessentially American in their diversity. It is not a work meant for the casual poetry lover. Rather, it is a collection for those who love to dig deep into themes, styles, and symbols within the text.
13 people found this helpful
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Martina Newberry
3.0 out of 5 stars
Have they forgotten?
Reviewed in the United States on March 2, 2021
Have Rekdal and Lehman forgotten that Plumly and Olds are not the only mature poets writing today? Or, perhaps it''s the editors and publishers of lit mags who have forgotten it. Was part of getting into this anthology that poets should not have been born before 1960?... See more
Have Rekdal and Lehman forgotten that Plumly and Olds are not the only mature poets writing today? Or, perhaps it''s the editors and publishers of lit mags who have forgotten it. Was part of getting into this anthology that poets should not have been born before 1960? There are some fine poets out there in their 70s and 80s. This book could have used some of their input.

There are a few good poems in this book, but, for the most part, the poems were fairly bland, lacked insights, lacked experience, lacked skill.

Ah well! You win some, you lose some.
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Top reviews from other countries

B M Baily
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Disappointing
Reviewed in Canada on April 4, 2021
This collection is heavily weighted toward "the academy": most poems are written by creative writing teachers, professors, etc. So the poems are often pretentious (some even name-drop) and there are precious references to other works of literature. I have a post-graduate...See more
This collection is heavily weighted toward "the academy": most poems are written by creative writing teachers, professors, etc. So the poems are often pretentious (some even name-drop) and there are precious references to other works of literature. I have a post-graduate degree in literature and have read poetry all my life, so yes, I recognize the worst of the university culture in these poems. That being said, there are a smattering of honest, rugged poems from writers of different backgrounds and origins which are really worth reading. Also shameful is that fact that the compiler has basically done nothing to curate this collection. It would have made sense to group poems by theme, or style, or subject. But no: these poems are arranged alphabetically by poet''s last names. Uninspired and lazy approach. Really, an insult, and the result is not worthy of the title Best American Poetry. (Thank God this is not a collection of the BEST American poetry; if it were the best, the USA might as well quit trying!)
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