When Contemporary American Poetry emerged in 1971, it became a revelatory collection for students and readers of poetry and solidified the reputations of many of the poets it included. With subsequent editions, A. Poulin—the founder of BOA Editions—became known for his adamant, almost confrontational editorial decisions. With its ample selection of poems alongside a photo, biographical sketch, and bibliography of each poet, the anthology quickly became a mainstay of college classrooms and has been in print for over thirty years. The anthology now presents the work of sixty-six poets—the first edition presented twenty-two—who have "shaped the contours and direction of the mainstream of American poetry" from 1955 to the present.
The seventh edition contains authors as distinct and influential as John Ashbery, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, Louise Glück, Donald Hall, Robert Hayden, Carolyn Kizer, Denise Levertov, Robert Lowell, James Merrill, W.S. Merwin, Sylvia Plath, Charles Simic, Mark Strand, and James Wright.
Regarding the changes the collection has undergone during its tenure, editor Michael Waters, as A. Poulin's literary executor, writes:
In many ways, the Sixth edition seemed an expanded version of that First Edition, and when it appeared in 1996 Poulin and I agreed that the next edition—this one—would incorporate the first in a series of changes necessary to the essential freshness of the anthology as it was originally conceived thirty years ago.
Poulin, A., Jr. and Michael Waters, editors. Contemporary American Poetry 7th edition (2001). Houghton Mifflin College Division.