American Poets and Poetry

From the Colonial Era to the Present

by Jeffrey Gray, Mary McAleer Balkun, and James McCorkle, Editors


Amiri Baraka was a revolutionary political activist.

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Cover image for American Poets and Poetry

March 2015


Pages 723
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics The Arts/General
  American History/General

The ethnically diverse scope, broad chronological coverage, and mix of biographical, critical, historical, political, and cultural entries make this the most useful and exciting poetry reference of its kind for students today.

American poetry springs up out of all walks of life; its poems are "maternal as well as paternal…stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff that is fine," as Walt Whitman wrote, adding "Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion."

Written for high school and undergraduate students, this two-volume encyclopedia covers U.S. poetry from the Colonial era to the present, offering full treatments of hundreds of key poets of the American canon. What sets this reference apart is that it also discusses events, movements, schools, and poetic approaches, placing poets in their social, historical, political, cultural, and critical contexts and showing how their works mirror the eras in which they were written. Readers will learn about surrealism, ekphrastic poetry, pastoral elegy, the Black Mountain poets, and "language" poetry. There are long and rich entries on modernism and postmodernism as well as entries related to the formal and technical dimensions of American poetry.

Particular attention is paid to women poets and poets from various ethnic groups. Poets such as Amiri Baraka, Nathaniel Mackey, Natasha Trethewey, and Tracy Smith are featured. The encyclopedia also contains entries on a wide selection of Latino and Native American poets and substantial coverage of the avant-garde and experimental movements and provides sidebars that illuminate key points.


    • Covers American poetry from the Colonial era to the present in roughly 300 alphabetically arranged entries
    • Features key contemporary poets, including those appearing in current journals
    • Brings together approximately 80 contributors who are among the most widely known scholars in the field
    • Supports Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Social Studies by helping students gain a greater understanding of language
Author Info

Jeffrey Gray, PhD, is professor of English at Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ. His published works include Mastery's End: Travel and Postwar American Poetry and many articles on poetry and American culture. He is coeditor of The New American Poetry of Engagement: A 21st Century Anthology and translator of Guatemalan novelist Rodrigo Rey Rosa's The African Shore.

Mary McAleer Balkun, PhD, is professor of English and chairperson of the English department at Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ. Her research interests include early American poetry and travel narratives, material culture, and the American gothic and grotesque. Her published works include The American Counterfeit: Authenticity and Identity in American Literature and Culture and articles on Phillis Wheatley, Sarah Kemble Knight, and the American grotesque, among others. Other projects include a study of the early American grotesque and an edited volume on women and empire in the early Americas.

James McCorkle, PhD, teaches in the Africana Studies Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. He is also director of the Africa Literature Association's Headquarters. McCorkle's published works include a study of postmodern American poetry, The Still Performance; an edited collection of essays, Conversant Essays: Contemporary Poets on Poetry; and two volumes of poetry, Evidences, which received the APR/Honickman Award, and The Subtle Bodies.

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