This is a book review written a few years ago. I was lucky enough to see Campbell read from this book at Moe’s in Berkeley. Only a handful of people were there for the reading, it was before the book was a finalist for the Pulitzer but still that’s the Bay Area, so many great poets coming through all the time means there are opportunities to see great poets in intimate settings.
Campbell McGrath has produced an ambitious project with his book XX: Poems For The Twentieth Century, a book that provides a literary experience well worth the effort of reading its full 222 pages. McGrath’s collection is a sequence of poems for every year from 1900 to 2000 plus a epilogue for 2016, 102 poems in all. The poems themselves delve into the artistic, literary, musical, philosophical and technological aspects of the century. This is a book where we are asked to perceive the twentieth century as a river that McGrath has taken a dipper of material out for each year. There is a chance feel to the flow of the historical subjects he is choosing, yet the overall experience is one of control and care.