Knopf to Publish “TOGETHER IN A SUDDEN STRANGENESS: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic”

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In response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and the devastating effect it has had on all facets of life for people around the globe, Alice Quinn – former longtime poetry editor of The New Yorker and immediate past executive director of the Poetry Society of America – reached out to prominent poets across the country and asked them to share new poems at this moment in time. The results, TOGETHER IN A SUDDEN STRANGENESS: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, will be published by Knopf on June 9.

The anthology collects an outpouring of eighty-five poems from the crisis, only a few of which have already appeared in publications or on social media. It will be available first as an eBook from Knopf and simultaneous audio from Penguin Random House in June, with a commemorative hardcover edition to follow on November 17. The title of the anthology comes from a poem by Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet,” which contains the lines “we would all be together / in a sudden strangeness.”

“The anthology speaks to this moment of the virus and its repercussions,” says Quinn, “and it will be a marker in the future for the new brand of uncertainty and kinship most of us are feeling so profoundly. The poems range in tone from sorrowful to fiercely resilient, wry and wistful to emblematically reverent about the earth and the vulnerability and struggles of human beings in dramatically frightening times.”

The poets in the collection range widely in terms of their aesthetic approach, their geography, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and age, but all are American, which was the only criteria Quinn used when reaching out. “Although this pandemic is global,” she says, “trying to create an anthology featuring an international group of poets requires more time and perspective—and readers want to hear from our poets at home right now.” Some of the poets include: Ada Limón, Billy Collins, Carl Phillips, Dana Levin, Ellen Bass, Evie Shockley, Fady Joudah, Jane Hirshfield, Li-Young Lee, Major Jackson, Susan Minot, Vijay Seshadri, and Yusef Komunyakaa.

“The need for poetic voices and the desire for community has never been greater,” says Senior Editor Deb Garrison, who acquired the book from David Kuhn at Aevitas Creative Management. “It is especially gratifying for us to be working with Alice on this book. She was the poetry editor at Knopf in the 1980s, and her legacy is a major part of our list. It feels like a homecoming, at a time when we are all seeking sustenance and shelter — and poetry, especially now, is one of the places where we find it.”


Posted: May 7, 2020