Goodreads Review: American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry

American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry

American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Could also be titled: Experiment for Experiment’s Sake.

I only got through 2/3 of the book (has to go back to my local library) but what I did read was very mixed. My chief concern with this anthology is how it breaks down the tensions in United States Poetry to a “fundamental division” between narrative and experimental texts when all that is explored in this volume is the negotiation between variations in U.S. English non-linear narrative in contemporary academic poetry without putting any focus on hybrid texts outside of academia and/or explore the boundaries of English.

Many of the selections from the poets really only hint at the possibility of hybrid text as the samples rarely show a collision of the two coming together with only a few poets actually able to balance plain language and disrupted text in a single poem or even a few pages. Some of the poets who do show the best of all worlds in this collection include Nathaniel Mackey, Michael Palmer, John Yau and Harryette Mullen.

With a shaky premise to begin with (poetry has always benefited from a collision between various camps, not just a late 20th century argument between academics), a very loose definition of “academic poetry” (probably included because almost every poet is in academia), and a mandate that hybrid poetry can lead us back to a “purer sense of language” and help in the “renaming of the world” (I thought that was the job of all poetry), this collection doesn’t offer a plurality of voices but instead seeks to limit the definitions of what new poetry can be.

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  1. Good review. So one of my questions regarding the title (and the fallacy of the title) was whether it was an appropriation of ethnic studies works on hybridity written by people who do come from hybrid American cultures, and speak/write/communicate in hybrid American languages. Here I don’t specifically mean “non-white.”

    Second thing: this was my complaint with a book review I just read, in which the reviewer drew an unbudging dividing line between “academic” poetry and “outsider” poetry in American poetry, and in which “outsider” poetry is stereotyped as formalistically sloppy, over-reliant on narrative and trope. Of course, we see just as much formalistically sloppy, over-reliance on trope in “experimental” allegedly hybrid, “academic” poetry.

  2. I had a problem with the "hybrid" label as well but the editors managed to define it well in their intro. That said, I think the editors sabotaged any chance for hybridity by choosing only poets with at least 3 books. I can understand why they did it but it eliminates a lot of text that is striving to be hybrid.

    The divide between "academic" and "outsider" is just as flimsy as the divide between "authentic" and "insider." We need more editors looking to create bridges instead of looking down the chasms.

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