America, Essence, & Rhyme REVIEWING Across State Lines

Across State Lines: America's 50 States as Represented in Poetry

Editor: The American Poetry and Literacy Project
Genre: Poetry
Year: 2003


This book is a poetry anthology that presents at least one poem for every state within the United States of America. The poems are from various poets, living and otherwise, of all different backgrounds. They are reprinted as a curated collection to match the theme. 


This book was part of The American Poetry & Literacy Project. It used to leave free books in public places to promote poetry appreciation. I don't believe this project exists anymore, as I haven't been able to find any recent information about it. I stumbled across this book on Internet Archive. 

The book features 55 different poems from 55 different authors, ranging from Langston Hughes to Walt Whitman, Willa Cather to Amy Lowell. There are a wide variety of voices and topics centered around the theme of states. Every state in the country is represented, although due to size and popularity, Texas & New York have two poems, and California has three, accounting for there being 55 poems even though there are a total of 50 states. 

Some of the poems are about the landscape and nature of the area, such as Tom Sexton's "Autumn in the Alaska Range", and Hamlin Garland's "On the Mississippi". Others are about the people and voices of America, such as Carl Sandberg's "Chicago", and Jane Kenyon's "At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina". The variety of poems and voices is enjoyable and satisfying to a certain degree. While at university I read a lot of poetry, so recently I had been wanting to enjoy some, and although I liked this collection, it was almost too brief and it wasn't quite as much in some regards as I would like. I think that might be part of the fun in this case, though. 

I really enjoyed the poems about the scenery of places. Being a person who has traveled quite a bit and seen many different places, I often wonder what places I haven't been to look like, and I remember the places I've been very well by look and scent. I was hoping that some of my general wanderlust would be satiated with this collection and instead it was barely prickled to a certain degree, and I was hungrier after, feeling I hadn't gotten the exact fill I needed from it. I also like the poems of different voices that make up places, although this wasn't what I was looking for at right this moment. I was looking for some scenery and I did get some, it just wasn't enough to quell the wanderlust I get from time to time.

One poem I really enjoyed was "Seaweeds", by Shirley Geok-lin Lim, whom I have never read before. This one I liked because it pulled in a lot of marine elements, ecologically speaking, which I haven't seen a lot in poetry, personally. I thought it was different and neat; this one made me feel the most like I was really "seeing" something new, which is what I like my travels to have, both reading and physically going to a different place.

I have had exposure to Hughes and Whitman, but a good aspect of this collection was getting to find new names I've never read before. This book is, in essence, a jumping off point. It points you in new directions with a sampler platter, which for me, is both good and bad. I have a tendency to springboard into assorted research projects, so this is pretty natural and I'll enjoy exploring more of each poet's works as best as I can. However, since I do that so often, I will probably get sidetracked and taken along other paths along the way, on top of other pathways of randomness that I am already following at the moment. It doesn't repeat poets, so each voice is different and each style is different. The poems are from different times as well, so the language use also changes time periods.

For me, this book is a solid Lone Star rating of: ✯✯✯ 
It is a fun sampler and a great introduction to different poets, but it didn't have enough of what I had hoped it would be based on the title, and it really is just a sampler. It is quick to read and easy to flip through to further examine the different poems. It generally has some revisit value, but it isn't a book that I would say every poetry lover must go seeking as a must have. If you stumble across it online like I did, give it a go, and if not, you can read plenty of other poetry online and explore about the same without it. Fun, but not essential. 

Comment Time

This ends my review, I will go ahead and include a list of the poets and poems below for reference if anyone wants to know what is included in this volume. Beyond that, comment below with what kinds of poetry you enjoy or if you even enjoy poetry at all!

Poets & Poems in this Collection: 

  • Arbuckle, Nan - "Grandfather's Song" 
  • Balaban, John - "Passing through Albuquerque" 
  • Berry, Wendell - "Kentucky River Junction" 
  • Booth, Philip  - "Marin"  
  • Brown, Fleda  - "A Few Lines from Rehoboth Beach"
  • Byer, Kathryn Stripling - "From Mountain Time"
  • Carruth, Hayden  - "The Cows at Night" 
  • Cather, Willa  - "Prairie Spring" 
  • Chandler, Tom - "Jerimoth Hill" 
  • Clifton, Lucille  - "blessing the boats (at St. Mary's)"
  • Collins, Billy  - "Fishing on the Susquehanna in July" 
  • Curry, Peggy Simson  - "Lupine Ridge" 
  • Elliot, Harley  - "Outside Abilene" 
  • Ferlinghetti, Lawrence  - "The Changing Light" 
  • Fitzgerald, Robert  - "July in Indiana" 
  • Flint, Roland  - "Early Cutting"
  • Foster, Charles  - "How Everything Was in the End Resolved in California"
  • Frost, Robert  - "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
  • Garland, Hamlin  - "On the Mississippi" 
  • Giovanni, Nikki  - "Just a New York Poem" 
  • Gonzales, Rebecca  - "South Texas Summer Rain" 
  • Hansen, Joseph  - "Dakota: Five Times Six" 
  • Hart, Edward L.  - "Spring" 
  • Hicky, Daniel Whitehead  - "Nocturne: Georgia Coast" 
  • Hughes, Langston  - "Daybreak in Alabama"
  • Kenyon, Jane - "At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina"
  • Kinsley, Robert  - "A Walk Along the Old Tracks" 
  • Klein, Robbie Spika - "Iowa" 
  • Kono, Juliet - "Silverswords" 
  • Lazarus, Emma - "Long Island Sound" 
  • Levine, Philip - "Drum" 
  • Lewis, Janet - "From For John Muir, A Century and More After His Time"
  • Lim, Shirley Geok-lin - "Seaweeds" 
  • Lowell, Amy - "From The Congressional Library" 
  • McDonald, Walt - "The Waltz We Were Born For" 
  • McFarland, Ron - "Idaho Requiem"
  • McGahey, Jeanne - "Oregon Winter" 
  • Momaday, N. Scott - "Earth and I Gave You Turquoise"
  • Nemerov, Howard  - "Found Poem" 
  • Oates, Joyce Carol - "Night Driving" 
  • Oliver, Mary  - "Coming Home" 
  • Paine, Albert Bigelow  - "In Louisiana" 
  • Pettit, Michael  - "Virginia Evening" 
  • Robertson, Kirk  - "driving to Vegas"
  • Sandburg, Carl  - "Chicago" 
  • Scarbrough, George - "Tenantry (Polk County, Tennessee)
  • Sexton, Tom  - "Autumn in the Alaska Range"
  • Snyder, Gary  - "Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout"
  • Stafford, William  - "Once in the 40s"
  • Stevens, Wallace  - "Nomad Exquisite" 
  • Van Doren, Mark  - "The Hills of Little Cornwall"
  • Weeks, Robert Lewis  - "Appalachian Front" 
  • Whitman, Walt - "Spirit that Form'd this Scene" 
  • Williams, Miller  - "Walking After Supper" 
  • Wright, James  - "A Blessing"