THE WORD THAT comes to mind when considering American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time is gift. Edited by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, this anthology of poems from 50 living American poets addresses the nation with generosity. In her introduction, Smith describes American Journal as “an offering” for us to expand, renew, or establish our relationship with poetry and each other. She writes that she loves poems because they invite her to “sit still, listen deeply, and imagine putting [herself] in someone else’s unfamiliar shoes.”
American Journal presents 50 different takes on the American experience: a school field trip (“The Field Trip,” by Ellen Bryant Voigt); war (“Personal Effects,” by Solmaz Sharif); the shouldering of inequity on young, brilliant lives (“Mighty Pawns,” by Major Jackson); addiction (“My Brother at 3 AM,” by Natalie Diaz); work (“Minimum Wage,” by Matthew Dickman); language (“Music from Childhood,” by John Yau); and hope (“For the Last American Buffalo,” by Steve Scafidi).