I know of no program more vital to the launching of a poet’s career than The National Poetry Series. For over 30 years, 5 poets annually have enjoyed the immense benefit of having their manuscripts transformed into handsome books by some of the most prestigious publishers in the country. Measured by these hard, practical results alone, the Series deserves the support of every devotee of poetry. My own Questions About Angels, selected by Edward Hirsch in 1990, marked the true beginning of my public life in poetry.
The National Poetry Series has been the single most important means for discovering who the best young American poets are and for publishing their first books. The list of poets who have been its beneficiaries is astonishing.
It’s astonishing to realize that The National Poetry Series has been in existence since 1978 and that it has been instrumental in having American publishers bring out over hundred and seventy-five books of poetry by my count. The list of books and names is staggering, too, for it includes just about every now well-known name in contemporary poetry that was once totally unknown, until rescued from oblivion by one of the discerning judges on which the series depends for making its yearly selections. This is an accomplishment unmatched by any other poetry series or a single publisher in this country and deserves both our congratulations and our support that it continues.
Every year I look forward to buying the five books published in The National Poetry Series. It’s like having a curator who gathers again and again the most exciting and diverse collections of poetry in the country, selections that continue to represent the breadth of American poetry. Not only is it the most distinguished series, it is also the only one I know of that consistently identifies, at an early stage in their careers, the writers we are likely to be reading for a long time.
By enabling five new volumes of poetry to appear annually over the past 35 years, The National Poetry Series has radically changed the face of American poetry. A number of poets who are now among our best-known first appeared there as beginners, and might never have been heard from were it not for the publication opportunity the Series offers. It’s vital to our literary health as a nation that the work continue.