The Heart of American Poetry
An acclaimed poet and our greatest champion for poetry offers an inspiring and insightful new reading of the American tradition
We live in unsettled times. What is America and who are we as a people? How do we understand the dreams and betrayals that have shaped the American experience? For poet and critic Edward Hirsch, poetry opens up new ways of answering these questions, of reconnecting with one another and with what’s best in us.
In this landmark new book from Library of America, Hirsch offers deeply personal readings of forty essential American poems we thought we knew—from Anne Bradstreet’s “The Author to Her Book” and Phillis Wheatley’s “To S.M. a Young African Painter, on seeing his Works” to Garrett Hongo’s “Ancestral Graves, Kahuku” and Joy Harjo’s “Rabbit Is Up to Tricks”—exploring how these poems have sustained his own life and how they might uplift our diverse but divided nation.
“This is a personal book about American poetry,” writes Hirsch, “but I hope it is more than a personal selection. I have chosen forty poems from our extensive archive and songbook that have been meaningful to me,
part of my affective life, my critical consideration, but I have also tried to be cognizant of the changing playbook in American poetry, which is not fixed but fluctuating, ever in flow, to pay attention to the wider consideration, the appreciable reach of our literature. This is a book of encounters and realizations.”
Praise for The Heart of American Poetry
"Hirsch’s substantial volume honors the whole range of American verse, . . . [it] deserves, and rewards, close, patient attention. . . . A book of revelations."
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Every now and then a book comes along to light a fire underneath you. The Heart of American Poetry is such a volume. . . . This exquisite book . . . pulses with love; it is enlightening and reassuring on the why of poetry and the why of ourselves. Every shelf should have a place for this collection—warm yourselves in its glow."
—N. J. McGarrigle, The Irish Independent
"This labor of love from one of America’s greatest champions of poetry stands out from critically distant collections as a personal and heartfelt retrospective."
—Jeffrey Johnson, The Christian Century