Personal Best: Makers on Their Poems that Matter Most

Erin Belieu, Carl Phillips, eds.

Personal Best: Makers on Their Poems That Matter Most is home to fifty-seven author-selected poems and accompanying essays that explain how and why each poet chose a poem as their “personal best.” The anthology offers a provocative and surprising range of responses in which readers will find poetic context for the life of a poem and revelatory insight into the unique, personal experiences that shape the writing process itself. Including works from a wide variety of voices both new and well-established, Personal Best is a far-reaching, essential touchstone for the art of poetry in the United States today. The anthology gives readers—both longtime fans of poetry and those just discovering its possibilities—an intimate view of the heart and spirit that make poetry one of our most quintessentially human forms of expression.

ISBN: 9781556596520

Format: Paperback

About the Editor

Erin Belieu was born in Nebraska and educated at The Ohio State University and Boston University. She is the author of Infanta, chosen by Hayden Carruth for the National Poetry Series; One Above & One Below, winner of the Midland Authors Prize and Ohioana Poetry Award; Black Box, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist; Slant Six, a New York Times favorite book of 2014; and Come-Hither Honeycomb (2020), all published by Copper Canyon Press. Her poems have appeared in places such …

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About the Editor

Carl Phillips is the author of 16 books of poetry, most recently Then the War: And Selected Poems 2007-2020 (Farrar, Straus &; Giroux, 2022). His honors include the 2021 Jackson Prize, the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the Kingsley Tufts Award, a Lambda Literary Award, the PEN/USA Award for Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Academy of American Poets. Phillips has also written three …

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“Scheduled to publish in late October, this anthology from Copper Canyon Press sits in my book stack on the breakfast bar, screaming my name. It marries many of my bookish passions: poetry, prose by poets, and craft essays. Highlighting writers I admire like Kaveh Akbar, Victoria Chang, Tarfia Faizullah, Donika Kelly, Ada Limón, Airea D. Matthews, Jake Skeets, Danez Smith, and Ocean Vuong, I can’t wait to inhale this cover to cover and learn which works poets consider their personal best.” —Connie Pan, Book Riot

“For this lively and engaging anthology, fifty-seven poets, including Kaveh Akbar, Diane Seuss, Solmaz Sharif, and Ocean Vuong, choose one of their own poems and explain in an essay why it represents their ‘personal best.’ Together the poem-essay pairings provide an insightful look at the life of a poem and the personal experiences that shape the writing process.”—Poets & Writers

“This anthology endearingly reminds us that a poet’s own favorite poems often aren’t the much shared or anthologized or otherwise best known, and that our own favorites as readers are also often artifacts of time. The poets’ choices, and their rationale—largely thoughtful, sometimes revelatory—are telling. Buy it as a gift, teach with it: I certainly will.”—Rebecca Morgan Frank, Lit Hub

“Including a remarkable and diverse array of contemporary poets, Phillips and Belieu assemble a collection of singular poems, each selected by its poet and accompanied by an explication of how it came to be written, illuminating the choices that make each poem sing. With poems by Danez Smith, Ada Limón, Ocean Vuong, Yusef Komunyakaa, Ilya Kaminsky and many more, it was a welcome gift to reencounter poems I knew in fresh contexts, and it was equally enjoyable to explore poems new to me.”—Freya Sachs, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“Belieu and Phillips have put a finger to the pulse of American poetry with this anthology; they have demonstrated the importance of encountering poets in real time. Personal Best rejects the trend of venerating poets posthumously, centering the real and sometimes urgent motivations that drive some of the best authors of our generation. There’s something for everyone in this anthology, and I suspect that most readers will encounter at least a handful of poets who are new to them, and what a wonderful way to meet them.”—The Poetry Question

“Publisher Copper Canyon has been a boldface name in the poetry world for more than 50 years. Think of this like a mixtape (or a playlist, for you younger readers) that will delight the verse-loving person in your life.”—Michael Schaub, Los Angeles Daily News

“Brilliant. . . . This is a book about art-making as world-making. It’s about the why and what and how and who of writing poems. Why does anyone write? What is the point of poetry? What makes a series of words in a particular order settle and flutter in a heart? How does the act of writing transform the life of the writer? The act of making anything is terrifying and complicated. This book spoke to the writer in me, but even if what you make is not poems, or even words—if what you make is bread, or paintings, or conversations, or children, or maps or space or houses or friendships—this book is also for you. We are all makers.”—Laura Sackton, Books & Bakes