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Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. (1869–1948). The Little Book of Modern Verse. 1917.


“THE LITTLE BOOK OF MODERN VERSE,” as its name implies, is not a formal anthology. The pageant of American poetry has been so often presented that no necessity exists for another exhaustive review of the art. Nearly all anthologies, however, stop short of the present group of poets, or represent them so inadequately that only those in close touch with the trend of American literature know what the poet of to-day is contributing to it.

It is strictly, then, as a reflection of our own period, to show what is being done by the successors of our earlier poets, what new interpretation they are giving to life, what new beauty they have apprehended, what new art they have evolved, that this little book has taken form. A few of the poets included have been writing for a quarter of a century, and were, therefore, among the immediate successors of the New England group, but many have done their work within the past decade and the volume as a whole represents the twentieth-century spirit.

From the scheme of the book, that of a small, intimate collection, representative rather than exhaustive, it has been impossible to include all of the poets who would naturally be included in a more ambitious anthology. In certain instances, also, matters of copyright have deterred me from including those whom I had originally intended to represent, but with isolated exceptions the little book covers the work of our later poets and gives a hint of what they are doing.

I have attempted, as far as possible, to unify the collection by arranging the poems so that each should set the keynote to the next, or at least bear some relation to it in mood or theme. While it is impossible, with so varied a mass of material, that such a sequence should be exact, and in one or two instances the arrangement has been disturbed by the late addition or elimination of poems, the idea has been to differentiate the little volume from the typical anthology by giving it a unity impossible to a larger collection.