"The Yale Younger Poets Anthology" by George Bradley

The Yale Younger Poets Anthology George Bradley

Yale Series of Younger Poets
Publication date:
30 Mar 1998
Yale University Press
406 pages: 210 x 140mm

In 1919 Yale University Press inaugurated the Yale Series of Younger Poets, designed to "afford a public medium for the work of young men and women who have not yet secured a wide public recognition." This anthology of the longest-running poetry series in the United States tells the story of American poetry in this century. At first a forum for a conservative taste in parochial college verse, the Younger Poets Series soon opened up to unconventional but profound young talents from across the country—such as James Agee, Muriel Rukeyser, Margaret Walker, William Meredith, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, John Hollander, James Tate, Carolyn Forché, and Robert Hass. This anthology includes poems from the first book by each of the 92 winners of the annual Younger Poets contest.

The selections are accompanied by an introduction by George Bradley, the 1986 winner of the contest. Bradley charts the course of the series under the aegis of such contest judges as Stephen Vincent Benét, W. H. Auden, and James Merrill, lacing his narrative with anecdotes about the judges and winners. He also establishes the series’ vital role in the development of American poetry and American publishing. The anthology is divided into two sections: "The Early Years," which briefly presents the first 31 winners of the contest, and "The Modern Series," which gives ample room to display the early work of some of America's finest poets. All poets are introduced by a biographical headnote, and in the second section Bradley has added a brief commentary directing the reader to the salient features of each poet's work.

George Bradley is the author of three books of poetry: Terms to Be Met, Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and The Fire Fetched Down.

?Like most editors the Yale series has had, Auden had no sooner taken the job than he began to worry about the amount of work involved. . . . He complained vigorously about the introduction requirement he had agreed to only a week before: ?Personally, I am very much against the critical estimate business and would like to see the policy changed. These introductions always sound awful, and the whole idea that a new poet should be introduced by an older one as if he were a debutante or a new face cream, deplorable and false. The press held its ground, though. If Bent and MacLeish could do it, so could the new editor. And so, over his objections, Auden was brought to do a task he would accomplish spectacularly well.??from the Introduction 

"[Bradley] prefaces his anthology with introductory matter amounting to nearly a hundred pages of graceful, witty, and discriminating prose that combines aesthetic perception, historical understanding, and publishing shrewdness.  The result is a book that illuminates the recesses between artists, audiences, public taste, and the history of American publication.  Interesting?  Very. . . . The Yale Younger Poets Anthology will interest readers who care about the nature and direction of American poetry and about the factors of taste, audience, leadership, and opportunity that govern what we are allowed to read.  And it lavishly proves its editor's point: that the Yale Series of Younger Poets has performed an admirable service in the past." ?Peter Davison, The Atlantic Monthly

"George Bradley's Yale Younger Poets Anthology is several books-in-one; its Introduction is a witty and thoroughly informed contribution to literary history, while its headnotes to the individual poets and wise selections of poems make a critical statement of some power. With superb tact, Bradley also sketches an implicit self-portrait of one of the rare, authentic poets of his own generation." ?Harold Bloom

?An important and elegant history of American poetry?how it has been written, received, and read over the course of the century. It is a fascinating survey of the shifting tides in this country's literary taste.? ?J. D. McClatchy

?Consider this collection as much a cornerstone of any good twentieth-century American literature collection as Bloom?s Best of the Best.??Ray Olson, Booklist

?[An] excellent anthology . . . This collection should prove enjoyable to both those who know and love poetry and others eager to learn more.  Bradley?s pithy introductions to the individual poets are both informative and delightful. . . His introduction?it?s really a mini-course in modernism?provides the reader a window into the minds of the poets whose attitudes about the world were forged in the cauldron of the traumatic post World War I era. . . An interesting, eminently readable and ultimately invaluable road map showing how we got here.  And, perhaps more importantly, where we may be going next.??Walter Kita, New Haven Register


?As Bradley wisely observes in his long introduction, a history of the Yale Younger Poet Series is virtually a history of all the important Modernist poetry written in America after 1919, the year the series began. . . . Bradley does a superb job of editing following perhaps Robert Hass's notion that there are 'poems in the mind/we survive on.' Essential for all poetry collections.??Daniel L. Guillory, Library Journal


"A[n] interesting and highly worthwhile time capsule of American poetry of the 20th century. . . . Bradley's long, witty, fascinating introduction is something of a social and poetic history of Yale in the 20th century."?Virginia Quarterly Review

"[A] crisp and witty and incisively informative introduction, which not only gives a detailed account of the history of the series but does so in a way that reflects the shifting fortunes of poetry in our century."?Sven Birkerts, Washington Post Book World

"The publication of this anthology is a welcome event. . . . Bradley . . . introduces the volume with a detailed and valuable history of the series, which amounts to a history of American poetry since World War I. He vividly illustrates the profound impact of series' editors. . . . His insightful headnotes to the individual poets and his careful selections offer a strong critical view. This volume belongs in all collections of poetry and literary history."?Choice

"Bradley's intelligently conceived and soundly executed collection reminds us that anthologies do have a purpose apart from team-sports?and that purpose is in the first place a historical one. . . . [This book] offers an overview of the famous Yale Younger Poets series from its inception in 1919 to the present, including often fascinating selections from every winner of the prize and lucid, detailed background discussions of all twelve series judges."?Sandra M. Gilbert, Poetry