The Best American Poetry 2003, edited by Yusef Komunyakaa and David Lehman. Scribner. 288 pages. $16.
In the introduction to this comprehensive, inspiring collection, poet Yusef Komunyakaa writes: "Whether attempting to see into the mystery of things or the human soul, poetry has long been the instrument and path." In this, the 17th edition of Scribner's American Poetry series, Komunyakaa and David Lehman spotlight the country's best bards. Initiated by Lehman for Scribner in 1988, the series is guest-edited by Komunyakaa, author of numerous books of poems, most of them about his experience in the Vietnam War. This edition includes a diverse and refreshing mix of award-winners and new voices, including the works of Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Stephen Dunn, W. S. Merwin and Robert Pinsky. With comments from the poets about their work and an eloquent foreword from Lehman, this series belongs on the shelves of every reader of contemporary American poetry. In his introductory words, Komunyakaa asks: "Isn't it our duty to keep it [poetry] exciting?" With this volume, he and Lehman have done just that.