We might be editing from a slightly different position than the typical poetry anthologist—Please Excuse This Poem, our anthology of 100 poems by 100 contemporary poets, is intended for teenagers and young adults and we are fortunate not to be faced with the daunting, and most likely impossible, task of delineating a “canon” or addressing or redressing a particular group of aesthetics or poetic lineage. There are plenty of those anthologies by scholars and poets, many of which are on our own bookshelves.
This anthology sprung from countless conversations the two of us have had over the many years of our friendship. We were both troubled teenagers who felt, in some part, saved by poetry. Lynn remembers coming across a contemporary poetry anthology in a Goodwill store after having dropped out of high school. Brett remembers two rather traditional anthologies of contemporary poetry of the 1990s which were given to him as birthday gifts.
We want to create an anthology that would have spoken to our younger selves, that would have presented or exposed us to the breadth, strangeness, and energy of contemporary poetry. We want young people to see poets as living people, and not as the long-dead names from their textbooks. As dorky and wide-eyed as it sounds, we want to make poetry “cool.”
It is quite possible that, without the good fortune of a chance encounter with an agent who had a lifelong interest in poetry and who knew of an editor at a large house who shared the same, this anthology would have never been accepted for publication. We sent our proposal to a number of publishers and agents who either did not respond or who liked the idea and professed its importance, but didn’t think it could be profitable. As unsettled as our relationship to the big capitalism of big publishing might be, that our anthology landed where it did, with the resources to reach deeply into the school and library markets, among elsewhere, seems like a dream.
Surely, anthologies often find themselves defined as much by their exclusions as their inclusions. In the case of ours, we had to leave out innumerable favorite poems and poets because they were just not the right fit for this project. We aimed for a true diversity of poets, both in demographics and in style. For every kid that finds herself understood in a poem about fucking, there is the kid who finds herself understood in a poem about weather. It remains our deepest hope that there is at least one poem in this anthology that will serve and change each young person who opens the book.