By Wave Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2008
ISBN# 9781933517339 (5.75x7.5 144pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781933517346 (5.75x7.5 144pp, limited edition hardcover)
William Carlos Williams wrote, It is difficult/to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there. State of the Union brings together 50 American poets from the front lines of American poetics whose work boldly illustrates the urgency of Williams’s forewarning.
Contributors include John Ashbery, Anselm Berrigan, Lucille Clifton, CAConrad, Peter Gizzi, Albert Goldbarth, Terrance Hayes, Fanny Howe, Tao Lin, Eileen Myles, Michael Palmer, Wang Ping, Richard Siken, Juliana Spahr, James Tate, Catherine Wagner, Joe Wenderoth, Dara Wier, Rebecca Wolff, John Yau and many more.
The best of the best in this volume practices the art of subtlety well. And it’s not always the younger poets who do this. Sometimes it’s one of the heavyweights. John Ashbery, in “Annuals and Perennials,” sums up the America of the moment: “We have no shapes but power.”
Jay Robinson, Barn Owl Review
Many of the best poems in this collection come at their subject a little more obliquely, but are more fully realized as poems, by virtue of being emotionally complex and provoking more than one thought (e.g., War is bad or The government sucks). I don’t read poetry to find assertions I already believe to be true (that’s what the Internet is for).
Elisa Gabbert, Open Letters
The point is: this book is great, and it’s necessary, and if it ignites just a fraction more courage in those of us who get enervated by speaking up/out/together on stuff like this then we’re all better off for it.
Weston Cutter, Corduroy Books
What’s wrong with anger? Nothing—it’s a perfectly cromulent human emotion. But it sure makes for awful poetry, especially if it’s poured undiluted by humor, hope, or reflection into the “frail vessel” of verse, like hydrochloric acid into Tupperware...So hurray for the folks at Wave Books, whose broadminded selections in State, chosen after an open call for submissions, satisfy the need for like-minded connection but don’t stint on the wry entertainment, subtle engagement, or lyrical expression.
Marke B., San Francisco Bay Guardian
Beckman and Zapruder have tackled perhaps the largest taboo in American letters: the political poem. This genre is often dismissed as didactic or worse, un-poetic, but State of the Union proves just how good political poems can be.
Erica Wright, ForeWord Magazine
“Artists must raise their voices when there is wrong in the world. If writers remain silent to the questions of their time, they leave the framing and the investigations of the moment to journalists and politicians,” says Brian Turner, a contributor to State of the Union, which offers poetic responses to a wide range of politically red-hot topics such as race, terrorism, the nation’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and the Bush administration.
Joe Woodward, Poets & Writers
The word “politics” comes from the Latin politicus and means, according to Merriam-Webster, “of or relating to government, a government, or the conduct of government.” It’s the conduct of government—George Bush’s government—that concerns most of the 50 poets collected here. Some are famous; some are new. All are accomplished and impassioned.
Vince Covaia, NewPages
Political poetry is back. And Matthew Zapruder and Joshua Beckman’s State of the Union: 50 Political Poems is proof positive. Like Homer and the lyricists of old, the diverse group of poets here retell history with their own rhetorical flare. Although some poems in the collection take a somewhat direct political stance (Matthew Rohrer’s moral scorching of Dick Cheney’s environmental policies, for one), more provide a subtle discourse, focusing on a predominant characteristic or quality of our poltical environment. The collection gets the tone right too, a mix of irony, wry wit and tragedy that will be familiar to anyone who has been conscious through these past eight years.
Sabrina Jaszi, The Heeb Review
A refreshing collection of poetic disappointment and confusion at the dawn of the Obama age. The poets here, among them, John Ashbery, Dave Brinks, Lucille Clifton, Eileen Myles, are too smart, too tough, and too good to be trapped into the rhetoric suggested by “political poems,” so they do their damning hard but they don’t forget the flowers, the eucalyptus, the minaret, or the name of the street they live on.
Andrei Codrescu, Exquisite Corpse
If some of the voices in Union are frustrated, angry, even cynical, they are not absent hope. They embody the abstract perceptions of a swath of (albeit, liberal-minded) Americans, and in doing so, present a climate of fear, deception and violence.
John Deming, Coldfront
The beauty of State of the Union is that the editors worked hard to assemble an anthology that expands upon our idea of what a political poem is.
Steven Karl, Galatea Resurrects
Beckman and Zapruder have put together an anthology that shows that art does not need to overlay politics on to its essential-art-self, but rather that the political is an unavoidable engagement art must make, that human organization is politics, and human expression is of the political realm.
Jason Schneiderman, CUNY Graduate Center Advocate
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