Paul Molloy assembled this anthology for middle high school readers with the intent of introducing students to figurative language and the "rich variety and appeal of American poetry." Over 100 poems by 55 different American poets are divided into eight thematic groups, each meant to encourage discussion and comparison of various poets of the 19th and 20th centuries. For example, in the chapter entitled "Alive and Spoken," readers will find the first person voices of Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore. They can compare the simplicity of William Carlos Williams to the more fantastic imagery of Wallace Stevens.
Some of America's best known poems and poets are included in Poetry U.S.A., from Robert Frost intoning "miles to go before I sleep" in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" to the more contemporary "Piano After War" by Gwendolyn Brooks, in which the poet observes the memories so easily stirred by the song of a piano.
Paul Molloy's anthology also includes an appendix of detailed notes on each poem — to provide students with word meanings and elaborate on a poem's literary allusions — and a chapter of biographies on each of the 55 poets, whose represented work is sure to inspire discussion as well as appreciation.