A seasoned poetry editor of a national magazine with a circulation of 500,000 admitted he didn’t much care for poetry anthologies. It wasn’t the poems he minded (thank goodness), so much as the sometimes awkward umbrellas under which the poems were forced to gather. “Not another anthology,” one can imagine him groaning. A visit to almost any bookstore will reveal a plethora (he might say “glut”) of poetry anthologies. Anthologies focusing on love, baseball, sunning cats, patriotism, vampires, knitting, left-handedness, you name it. Enough already. Like that grumpy editor, I usually find myself looking elsewhere for my poetry fix: to single-author collections emphasizing context and unity, at one extreme; or to magazines, at the other, where the circumstance of reading a poem tends toward the haphazard and serendipitous.
And yet, part of me thrills at the prospect of a new anthology: the distillation of so much lived truth in one place, the opportunity of being carried away by some editor’s magpie reading, the chance to see what kind of cosmos a particular group of poems will constellate. When Enduring Ties: Poems of Family Relationships, edited by Grant Hardy, crossed my desk, I was curious, but a little suspicious. With a title like that, I was sure to find earnest poems, but would they be good? As I scanned the table of contents, I was happily surprised. Here were poems I had admired for years alongside translations I had never read. I sat down to read with greater care and a more open mind. As Hardy himself explains, “This anthology began as a folder in a file cabinet” bearing the rubric of “Favorite Poems” that went public only after he discovered there weren’t any anthologies quite like it. Lucky for us Hardy is not just an ardent reader, but a discriminating one as well. (As a side note, I might mention that this is the same Grant Hardy who recently published The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition, the much touted study version of the Book of Mormon—published by the prestigious University of Illinois Press, but marketed, among others, to mainstream Mormons who frequent Deseret Book.)