This four-volume set of anthologies was designed "...to create an anthology of modern American poetry which could serve as an almost encyclopedic guide to the range of work produced in the twentieth century." In addition to over 2400 poems by more than 350 poets, the American Poetry anthologies from Library of America provide extensive biographical and textual notes and chronologies to important events in poetry throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Poets are presented in birth-date order, and these volumes only feature poets born before 1914--additional volumes will cover the rest of the century.
American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, a two-volume set edited by John Hollander, features generous selections by Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Stephen Crane, and Edwin Arlington Robinson alongside contemporary versions of American Indian poetry, folk songs and spirituals, and humorous and patriotic verse of the day.
In American Poetry: The Twentieth Century, also a two-volume set, the reader is treated to large selections from Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Hart Crane, and Elizabeth Bishop as well as lesser-known moderns like Witter Bynner and Elinor Wylie. Here also song traditions are represented by blues songs and Tin Pan Alley lyrics. All four volumes include an incredible wealth of material, from the full text of modernist masterpieces "The Waste Land" and "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" to the lyrics of Ma Rainey and Cole Porter to the metered verse of unlikely presidential poets John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln.
The sheer size of these anthologies coupled with the care devoted to contextualizing the poets in their time fulfills the editors’ hope that "...these volumes would reflect not only our contemporary sense of the relative value of the poets included, but an awareness of how things looked at different points in time."
For further information, the Library of America web site includes an interview with American Poetry: The Twentieth Century editorial board and
multimedia presentations of selected poems from the anthologies.
Hollander, John, ed. American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century: Volume One: Freneau to Whitman and American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century: Volume Two: Melville to Stickney, American Indian Poetry, Folk Songs and Spirituals (1993). Library of America.
Hass, Robert, John Hollander, Carolyn Kizer, Nathaniel Mackey, and Marjorie Perloff, eds. American Poetry: The Twentieth Century: Volume One: Henry Adams to Dorothy Parker and American Poetry: The Twentieth Century: Volume Two: E.E. Cummings to May Swenson (2000). Library of America.