Monday, April 12, 2010

Time You Let Me In

Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25
selected by Naomi Shihab Nye

236 pages
published by HarperCollins

Publisher's Description:

They are inspiring talented stunning remarkable wise

They are also fearless depressed hilarious impatient in love out of love pissed off

And they want you to let them in.

My Comments:

There are actually works by 26 poets included in this anthology. In the notes section at the end, Nye said that she is bad with numbers, and after notifying all 26 poets that they'd been accepted she couldn't omit any of them. From her introduction and notes, I get the impression that Nye invested a lot of time and love into putting this collection together; soliciting entries from potential contributors and choosing the final set to be included.

I don't know for sure if an anthology like this is eligible for the YALSA award, or even who would receive the award (all 26 authors plus Nye?) if it won. Judging anthologies of any kind is a challenge, because writing styles vary so much from one writer to another. There are bound to be some stronger and some weaker works in any collection. Poetry seems especially difficult to me, because judging good vs. great poetry seems to me largely a matter of personal taste. I've helped to judge a local poetry contest for the past four years, and there's never been unanimous agreement on first place versus second.

I felt that many of the strongest poets were featured toward the middle of the book. Works by Lauren Stacks, Jonah Ogles, and Lauren Eriks stood out for me, partially because I could connect with the experiences they were writing about. I'm sure that there are other readers who would connect with other poems. There are a lot of emotions gathered here, many of them so raw that I have to believe that they are recordings of the poets personal experiences.

I think that, overall, this collection is successful in that the poems all seem to belong together. There are different viewpoints expressed throughout the collection, but similar themes and topics run throughout. Things like bittersweet childhood memories, failed romance, deaths of loved ones, coming of age and general angst crop up consistently.

It seems that there are a lot of book covers featuring keys out there (Incarceron and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life are the ones that jump immediately to mind) and I wonder whether that was a factor in choosing the cover image. The key does work with the title, which comes from one of the poems. Even before I discovered the title's origin, I thought that it fit - young poets wanting to be heard.

The notes at the end include photographs and playful biographical blurbs about each poet. The photographs never fail to surprise me; the faces in the photos never match up with the faces I imagined would go with the names

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