The understanding of the United States—its history, its traditions, even the distinctly American voice—is largely determined by literature. Gathered in this rewarding and thought-provoking book are poems that have been essential components of our common American culture, from the earliest days of the nation through canonic works of the nineteenth century and up to the present day. 100 Essential American Poems includes works by such familiar figures as Longfellow, Poe, and Whitman, and popular classics like “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and “Casey at the Bat.” It also features passionate outcries from poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes that highlight our ongoing national racial tensions, and poems by such women as Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay that supply a distinctly female perspective on American life. Also included are the lyrics of such expressions of the American spirit as “Yankee Doodle,” “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “This Land Is Your Land,” which represent another facet of American literary tradition! The immortal poems and songs included here, each preceded by an illuminating headnote, will remind the reader of the richness and variety of the poetry of America and its people.
Leslie M. Pockell is an editor at a major publishing house in New York. He is has compiled several highly acclaimed poetry collections, including the bestselling The 100 Best Poems of All Time.