“Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation,” a poetry anthology edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer and Lynn Melnick, creates a mosaic of literary voices that tackle topics like heartbreak, pain, rape, race, and the connection between nature and life. This anthology, written in 2015 with a compilation of many different authors, offers many styles of poetry in a wide array of topics. Some poems, like Patricia Lockwood’s Rape Joke, tackle serious topics with class and humor, while others, like Angela Veronica Wong’s New York Boys I Miss Kissing Your Faces In the Backseat of Cabs, address lighter topics of life, like the skill in which Wong describes the lightness of youth in a playful manner.
The anthology is skillfully put together, placing poems with varying styles together, with short, concise poems placed before and after a longer, prose-like poem. Through this variation in styles and forms, readers are kept on their toes as to what kind of poem will appear next.
The first line read by readers is “I am sick of feeling,” from Dorothea Lasky’s Jakob. This poem catches readers’ attention as it describes the pain of loving someone who does not reciprocate said love, and enthralls readers by directly addressing them, stating, “Readers, you read flat words/ Inside here are many moments/ In which I have screamed in pain”. In contrast to this darkly, yet beautifully written, poem, the anthology ends with Kevin Prufer’s In A Beautiful Country, which contrasts the phrase “A good way to fall in love” with ways to die and kill yourself, but ends with the final lines “You’re thinking about this too much. /Slow down. Nothing bad will happen.” Analyzing the beginning line and the final line, they seem like bookends with all the mishmash of topics within, leaving the reader with some lines that sound like a statement they can relate to, or even are expected to relate to, while the final line seems to be a reassurance for the first line, whether a reassurance for the speaker that could be seen in general, or to the readers. “I am sick of feeling.” “Slow down. Nothing bad will happen.”
Through the poems of 100 different authors, readers are able to get a wide variety of topics, all addressed with different attitudes. Many poems tackle topics like suicide, rape, race, breakups, and loneliness, eloquently discussing these issues in a manner that can connect with people of varying ages. To contrast with the darker topics, there are lighter topics, like the lightness of what it is to love, and the ecstasies of innocence and childhood, and sex. Despite the variations of topics, each of the poems takes on the topics in a way that snares the attention of readers and provides beautiful lines that will remain with readers.
Even the biographies of the authors at the end serves as entertainment for readers, with a short biography, with questions about their favorite words, natural talents they would most like, favorite poems, and what they find miserable, which allows for more connection between readers and poets.
All in all, “Please Excuse This Poem” is a well-put together anthology that is sure to enthrall and delight.
Reviewed by: Alexa Fox