Best American Poetry 2011

By The Editors on 9.26.11

The Best American Poetry series, overseen by David Lehman since 1988, was my first introduction to contemporary poetry. I clearly remember the cherry-red cover of the 2005 edition which included poets like Beth Ann Fennelly, Terrence Hayes, and Tony Hoagland, whose work seemed more vivid than anything I’d read before then.

The twenty-fourth annual installment, edited by the poet Kevin Young, has just been released, and among the seventy-five poets selected are five Norton poets: Matthew Dickman, Major Jackson, James Longenbach, Gerald Stern, and Rosanna Warren. The whole book is worth seeking out, but here as a taste is Rosanna Warren’s featured poem, “The Latch,” which was included in her collection Ghost in a Red Hat:

The Latch

After scraping eighty-three-year-old paint from four screw heads
holding the latch in place on the studio door,
and, having steadied the door on one out-thrust
    hip and running
the pointed tip of a kitchen knife around the lockbox
    to break the seal

of paint, your neighbor patiently removed each screw with the
old-fashioned screwdriver he had brought and jiggled
    the lock free
so he could pry open its metal back and fish out 
    the broken spring,
the small, dark steel coil, and its detached tongue

which could be replaced, he thought, by an antiquarian locksmith
on the other side of town in la rue du Courreau—
though the latch will be too late to keep in or out
the man who abandoned this house, and the good and 
    ill spirits he courted here.