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American Sonnets: An Anthology (American Poets Project)

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Edited with an introduction by David Bromwich

When American poets turn to the sonnet, they invest it with a glamour and intensity equal to anything they have to show in more flamboyant, new-minted shapes. Like a symphony by Copland or a nude by de Kooning, an American sonnet marries European artistic tradition to New World innovation and expansiveness. Something old and familiar—the themes and schemes and history of the 14-line lyric—becomes something new, vital, and characteristically American.

This unique anthology presents one critic's selection from two centuries of American sonnets. Some of David Bromwich's choices—Hart Crane's tribute to Emily Dickinson, for example, or Emma Lazarus's dedication of Lady Liberty to the world's tired and poor—are classics cast in bronze. Others—Elizabeth Bishop's short-lined "Sonnet" or any sonnet typed by Cummings—are hammers that shatter the mold. The heart of the book is in the clusters of sonnets by Longfellow, Very, Tuckerman, Robinson, Frost, Stickney, Wylie, and Millay. Here are our Petrarchs and Shakespeares, the American masters who, by living within the strictures of the octave and the sestet, found full voice, enlarged a tradition, and changed the sonnet forever.

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