First published in 1960, Donald Allen's groundbreaking anthology remains an indispensable collection of avant-garde American poetry. According to Allen, the fifteen years following the end of World War II contained "many of the finest achievements of the older generation" (poets such as Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound), and a "second generation" who "achieved their maturity" (poets like Elizabeth Bishop and Kenneth Rexroth). The purpose of Allen's anthology, however, is to collect the work of a "strong third generation, long-awaited, but only slowly recognized."
The poets from this third generation hail from different poetic schools, and Allen's book groups them as such: the New York School, including John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, and Kenneth Koch; the Black Mountain School, composed of such figures as Charles Olson, Edward Dorn, and Denise Levertov; Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser as part of the San Francisco Renaissance; the Beats, namely Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac; and a fifth group of younger poets not grouped by affiliation or location. In addition to actual poems, there are "statements on poetics" by many of the contributors, and short biographical notes.
This anthology was republished in 1999 with a new afterword by the editor, but the poems are the same as in the first edition. The New American Poetry remains an important volume. As Publisher's Weekly wrote, "Anyone with an interest in 20th-century American poetry will welcome the re-release of The New American Poetry... A nearly full weighing up of the mid-century avant-garde; it remains essential."