After the debacle that was Best American Poetry 2015, folks are understandably a bit reticent about the whole concept of ‘best of’ anthologies. On the one hand, these annual offerings are a great way for readers to discover new, exciting work by emerging and established writers. On the other, the selection process can be muddy–particularly when relatively privileged people are running around co-opting the identities of actual real people in order to earn imaginary marginalized-writer brownie points.
All this to say, BlazeVOX’s announcement that it would publish an anthology titled Bettering American Poetry, curated and edited collaboratively by a team of 10 writers, was hugely fucking exciting.
Editors include complete and utter badasses like Kenzie Allen, Eunsong Kim, Nikki Wallschaleger, Metta Sáma, and VIDA’s Amy King. As their editorial statement so eloquently puts it:
We wish to challenge the idea that a few gatekeepers should oversee the publishing order each year by actively defining and maintaining a hierarchy of voices, an order that replicates the status quo that tokenizes and marginalizes difference. Our efforts will intentionally shift favor so that the literary landscape within this anthology reflects a ranging plurality of voices in American poetry and illuminates the possibilities of sharing space.
We feel that to “better” American poetry is to jam dominant systems of taste to the best of our abilities, and to resignify the very phrase “American poetry” with the languages that it so desperately lacks. We intend to center voices of resistance, subjectivities that emerge from the radical margins, artists whose Americanness transcends nationalism and other borders, perspectives historically denied institutional backing–in short, poets and poetries that are urgent and necessary but do not get along nicely with Power.
Quaint was so excited by this that we set out to nominate right away. So without further ado, our nominations for Bettering American Poetry 2015 are:
- “A.P” and Translation” by Raquel Salas-Rivera, originally published in Quaint Magazine Issue 4, April 2015
- “Strange Things Done” by Anna Maxymiw, originally published in Quaint Magazine Issue 5, September 2015
- “Self Defense: Ahop & Yul” by Yu-Han (Eugenia) Chao, originally published in Quaint Magazine Issue 5, September 2015
We’re stoked for the anthology, and so proud of the truly outstanding work we’ve had the privilege of publishing, both from these poets, and from all our rad submitters. It was a difficult selection, but we’re confident we put forth work that reflects exactly the kind of disruption, urgency, and diversity the editors of Bettering American Poetry are looking for.
Nominations are open through November 30, so there’s still time to put work forth! Find out more on the BLAZEVox website.