The Best American Poetry Series

"Girl with Beach Ball III"
by Roy Lichtenstein
view close-up

by David Lehman, Series Editor


As series editor of The Best American Poetry, I get to have a say, sometimes a large say, in the cover art we use each year. Early in the history of the series we established some guidelines for ourselves. These can be stated in a single sentence: the work of art that we reproduce on the cover — whether a painting, drawing, collage, photograph, or print — has to be by an American and has to be modern (defined as anything after 1900). As I love looking at art, the need to produce a new cover each year has given me an extra reason to frequent galleries and museums. It is fun to be constantly on the watch for cover art. It can change the way you look at a picture or add a new dimension to the experience.

Choosing cover art is not a unilateral process: my editor at Scribner, others at Scribner such as the art director and the publisher, and my literary agent (Glen Hartley), are among those whose opinions matter.

The cover art for The Best American Poetry 2007 is Roy Lichtenstein's 1977 painting, Girl with Beach Ball III. Roy Lichtenstein, one of the major American painters of the Pop Art generation, was born in New York City in 1923. As a young man he studied with Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League before attending Ohio State University. In 1961, Lichtenstein painted Look Mickey, the first of many paintings in his signature comic-strip style. He favored bright colors and flat surfaces in paintings that resembled large-size comic-book panels replete with dialogue or thought balloons. He achieved great renown. In 1969, the first New York retrospective of his work was mounted at the Guggenheim Museum. He was fond of saying that he would "leave his soul to science." Lichtenstein died in 1997.

Lichtenstein's Girl with Beach Ball III combines the distinctive features of his style with a vigorous nod to Picasso's 1932 painting Bather with a Beach Ball. I chose the image for the twentieth volume in The Best American Poetry series, because it has an iconic American look and at the same time it acknowledges a debt to the European avant-garde of the first half of the twentieth century. Lichtenstein's painting is fresh, funny, smart, and radiant with joy.

Home Page Series Editor David Lehman Series Archive