101 Great American Poems

101 Great American Poems101 Great American Poems
Edited by The American Poetry & Literacy Project

This is an excellent book of approachable poems, perfect for the classroom, a reluctant poetry reader, or someone looking for some comfort reads. That’s not to say all the selections were predictable. Yes, there’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Emily Dickinson, but there’s also Abraham Lincoln(?!) and Countee Cullen.

I often think that I don’t like poetry. It takes patience. I can’t just romp through pages at a time, eager to get to the next plot point. Apparently I’m not alone in “disliking” it, as Marianne Moore says in “Poetry”

“I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle…”

Of course, in the end, Ms. Moore is a poet, and appreciates the art, as I do as well.

Here’s  a little poem for today, a selection from the book. Won’t you try another tomorrow?

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

– Fog, Carl Sandburg

Want more like this? Try:

  • American Negro Poetry, Arna Bontemps. Back when I was teaching high school, this was a favorite with some of my students.
  • Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed, Grant Loveys. A debut collection from a Canadian author.
  • If Not, Winter, Sappho, translated by Anne Carson. I still have not read this, but desperately want a copy for my bookshelf. Anne Carson takes fragments of Sappho’s poetry and translates them as is, rather than trying to fill in the missing pieces.

4 thoughts on “101 Great American Poems

  1. Thank you. I’ve been looking fro something like this for a friend of mine who is about to start teaching a class for students who are frightened of poetry. This sounds as though it would make an excellent introduction to an area of poetry we don’r often cover in the UK.

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