As managing editor Keith Flynn clarifies in his introduction, his is not a top 10 for the obscure, or a final word on the matter, but a studied reflection "on 10 who deserved better than they got." Of this lot, there are Southerners and not-, academics and street preachers, artists and jazzmen, language-mongers and clipped condensers of the word. Each poet's work is bridged with essays, both biographical and analy-tical, and we receive a nimbly sketched portrait of each artist's life and poetics.
Most uncanny about this collection is its allowance for fence-sitting. Mina Loy, Paul Reverdy and Kenneth Patchen lived equally in the avant-garde art world, while Jack Spicer and Bob Kaufman shared their lives with folk and jazz. What this anthology again and again makes clear is that these poets largely escaped notice because of their essentially unpinnable selves. Of age in an era dumb to notions of the professional poet--or of the lauded "one-trick pony"--as Flynn dubs it, these 10 souls careened in and out of marked lanes. Close to disaster, maybe, but well worth watching.