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The story of FSG in verse

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Shortly after the arrival of the great publisher Robert Giroux, in 1955, at the publisher then known as Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, some of the best American poets of the time – and, in this case , of all times – followed him. John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Bogan, TS Eliot, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell and Allen Tate were all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux during the Giroux era, among many others, and he also published works by poets such as Pablo Neruda. According to former FSG president and publisher Jonathan Galassi, New Directions was arguably FSG’s only worthy rival in poetry publishing at the time.

As the decades passed and new publishers joined the press, FSG’s roster grew to include authors as varied in form and style as Charles Bernstein, Joseph Brodsky, Eleanor Chai, Carol Ann Duffy, Francine J. Harris, Seamus Heaney, Ishion Hutchinson, Yusef Komunyakaa, Marianne Moore, Carl Phillips, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, James Schuyler, Derek Walcott, CK Williams, Charles Wright and Adam Zagajewski. Then there is Frank Bidart, whose Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965–2016 won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2017 and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2018, and Louise Glück, whose Faithful and virtuous night won the 2014 NBA Poetry, and who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2021. The two poets published new books with FSG last fall, and Galassi said the press will release a new Glück collection, titled Fables, This year.

FSG Poetry Anthology– edited by Galassi, who is now President and Editor-in-Chief of FSG, and Associate Professor at Yale University and FSG Consulting Editor for Poetry Robyn Creswell – selects some of the best work from the FSG’s formidable list of poetry ‘editor. Published last November, in part to celebrate the press’s 75th anniversary, the anthology reads like a verse history of the past century of American poetry, as well as a forecast of verse to come.

This, Galassi said, was intentional. When discussing the anthology, he was quick to note the works of young poets, acquired by rising FSG editors Jackson Howard and Molly Walls, included in the anthology’s final section, devoted to 2020s. “These are two of our young writers buying and reading great stuff,” he said. “It’s not just us acquiring, and it shouldn’t be. Young people should read the works of young poets.

While other presses, such as Minneapolis’ Graywolf Press and Brooklyn’s Nightboat Books, have seen their profiles in the poetry world soar over the past decade, FSG remains a force, even setting aside the works by Bidart and Glück. The next books cited by Galassi include Carl Phillips Then the War: Selected Poems 2007–2020, as well as works by Roya Marsh, Iman Mersal, Chet’la Sebree and Hannah Sullivan.

“Almost all” of the poets published by FSG throughout its history have worked in the pages of the new anthology. Creswell said he and Galassi compiled it by “dividing the spoils”. He added, “There were a lot of surprises,” including the poets themselves (“We hadn’t even read some of them,” he laughs). Other surprises came from discovering the influence of past FSG background roster poets on today’s poets. “I was actually surprised how often I heard echoes of Berryman about later FSG poets,” Creswell noted—”sometimes even poets I didn’t expect.”

Galassi noticed a larger trend, which he explained as an anecdote: “A British publisher I know was telling me about their publisher’s poetry list, and they said, ‘Well, we have our poetry commercial, and we have our, you know, poetry poetry. And I thought, ‘Oh, well, we don’t have that.’ Poetry, for us, has always been a form of literary expression. The poets we have traditionally published have been really concerned with questions of language – although all poetry is part of a tradition, because it is based on what has come before – but this conscious tradition is still at the heart of what we do. But I think people are no longer afraid of poetry like before. They’ll read anything if it grabs them, which is a good thing.

It is the hope of FSG Poetry Anthology. And for Creswell, there’s also another hope: “I hope the anthology suggests that the poetry is actually getting stronger and it’s getting more varied.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the 01/24/2022 issue of Weekly editors under the title: The story of FSG in verse