Professor closes the book on an era with new anthology

Selected to edit the second volume of the Norton Anthology, "Postmodern American Poetry," Creative Writing Professor Paul Hoover is defining an era that lasted for more than half a century.


Creative Writing Professor Paul Hoover

Hoover edited the first edition of "Postmodern American Poetry" in the mid-1990s. While each edition begins with work written as early as 1950, the second will also include poems composed from 1994 to the present. Both anthologies showcase work influenced by the social and political change that followed World War II, characterized by unorthodox and experimental approaches.

"The process of choosing the literature that defines an era can be agonizing," Hoover said. "Working on the second volume has involved the burden of deciding who will stay and who will be new."

He did not hesitate to include Allen Ginsberg’s "Howl" (1955) in both volumes because the poet and the poem are solidly regarded as defining postmodern America. The selection of later work that has not had the chance to attain such stature involved some guesswork and, according to Hoover, is not for the thin-skinned. He has had to make difficult decisions about the work of colleagues as well as poets he has never met.

Hoover thinks that the next era of poetry will be heavily influenced by technology. If there is a common thread that links the postmodern era with the era to follow, Hoover thinks it is found language.

"A lot of the language that postmodern poets have been using is not their own language," said Hoover. "They experiment with words and phrases that they come across in literature, in newspapers and on the Internet or other mass media sources."  Hoover’s poetry explored this territory in "Sonnet 56" (Les Figues Press, 2009), a volume of poetry that reimagines one of Shakespeare’s more obscure sonnets as a voicemail message and other modern modes of communication.

In addition to his work editing the prestigious anthologies, Hoover’s own poetry has appeared in such notable anthologies as  "Best American Poetry," and Norton’s "American Hybrid." Among the distinguished literary journals containing Hoover’s work are the "American Poetry Review," "The Paris Review," "The New Republic" and "Partisan Review." He received the Frederick Bock Award from "Poetry" in 2010 and the Jerome J. Shestack Award for the best poem to appear in the "American Poetry Review" in 2002. Hoover co-founded the literary journal, "New American Writing," which he has co-edited with Creative Writing Chair and Professor Maxine Chernoff since 1974.

-- Denize Springer