In an anthology that includes the work of 360 poets from the last hundred years, editors Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris have packed the two volumes of Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry full of commentaries, art, illustrations, handwritten drafts, manifestoes, and--most of all--work that "tests the limits of poetry." In their introduction to Volume 1, Rothenberg and Joris describe their project as "a synthesizing and global anthology of twentieth-century modernism with an emphasis on the international and national movements that have tried to change the direction of poetry and art as a necessary condition for changing the ways in which we think and act as human beings." They go on to describe the poetry of the last century's avant-garde as "an instrument of change--a change that would take place foremost in the poem itself, both as a question of language and structure and of a related, all-connecting vision."
Both volumes feature a unique organizing principle that the editors describe as "loosely chronological galleries" of individual poets. Arranged according to birth date, this organization can allow for rich juxtapositions and unexpected connections between poets. Volume 1, From Fin-de-Siècle to Negritude, includes forerunners of modernism (Blake, Whitman, Lonnröt’s Kalevala, Rimbaud); poems from the Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, Objectivism, and Negritude movements; and concludes with "A Book of Origins," a collection of poetic sources from oral traditions and native cultures. In Volume 2, From Postwar to Millennium, the editors devote space to the Vienna group, Tammuzi poets, Cobra, concrete poetry, Beats, oral poets, postwar Japanese poetry, Neo-Avanguardia, Language poets, Misty poets, cyberpoetics, and "The Art of the Manifesto."