Friday, May 18, 2007

A Look Back: David Lehman's Best American Poetry Series Appeals to Rock Stars

In the course of looking through some old e-mails, I came across a blurb that I had sent someone about the Best American Poetry Series, edited by David Lehman. Read on:

From the January 8, 1999 issue of Entertainment Weekly:

Meter Reader A few months ago, Scribner editor Jake Morissey received an unusual request: Bruce Springsteen, a huge fan of the popular Best American Poetry anthology series, had been unable to find the first six books (1988-93); could Scribner supply him with the missing volumes? Members of Springsteen's staff had searched for the out-of-print volumes with no luck. Morrissey forwarded the Boss' request to Gillian Blake, the editor who oversees Best American. "I had a few on my shelves," she says. "David Lehman, founder and series editor of BAP, supplied his own copy of the very rare first volume, edited by John Ashbery." Blake hasn't yet heard back from Springsteen, but she learned from the intermediary who contacted Scribner that the singer was "very pleased and grateful". --Clarissa Cruz and Carmela Ciuraru

Well, needless to say, I was pleased as punch to read this, and even more pleased to know that like Bruce Springsteen, I had a full run of the series, all in hardcover, including the "very rare first volume". Plus, mine are all signed, on average, by at least twenty of the contributors and editors (my 2006 edition only has 10 autographs, but my 1998 edition is signed by 35!). Truly a one-of-a-kind collection, one that I would venture to say, The Boss would admire.

I'm guessing Mr. Lehman's collection would be the only one more impressive, assuming he found a replacement for the '88 edition which he so kindly gave to Springsteen. As for their commercial value, it is difficult to say, as many of the poets have inscribed their contribution pages to me, and the person willing to plunk down a boatload of money on poetry books doesn't necessarily want copies inscribed to someone else, not even an amateur blogger/poet/H.R. dude.