In 1958, in July, [Wright] wrote me a letter (I’m sure similar letters went to others) in which he announced that he was through writing poems. […] The first issue of Robert Bly’s magazine, The Fifties, which he read at this crucial point, arrived like a reproach. (He did not yet know Bly.) He told me: “So I quit. I have been betraying whatever was true and courageous […] in myself and in everyone else for so long, that I am still fairly convinced that I have killed it. So I quit.” In the letter he called himself “a literary operator (and one of the slickest, cleverest, most ‘charming’ concoctors of the do-it-yourself New Yorker verse among all current failures) […]”
A day later he wrote again, admitting that “I can’t quit and go straight. I’m too deep in debt to the Olympian syndicate. They’d rub me out.” (This is Roethke talk, who during mania often alluded to The Mob.)
— from Donald Hall, introduction to James Wright, Above the River (1992), p. 29-30
Penelope’s situation (in Homer, of course, it’s a death shroud she’s weaving) seems to me an interesting figure for the predicament of the writer or artist: making something, ripping it up, making something, ripping it up, all the while vaguely hoping for one’s ship to come in, whatever that would mean, with nobody in the immediate vicinity paying much attention.
–Joseph Harrison, note on ‘The Cretonnes of Penelope’ in The Best American Poetry 1998, ed. John Hollander and David Lehman, p.302
The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us. I do not know if such increased awareness makes us more moral or more efficient;I hope not.
I think it makes us more human, and I am quite certain it makes us more difficult to deceive, which is why, perhaps, all totalitarian theories of the State, from Plato’s downwards, have deeply distrusted the arts. They notice and say too much, and the neighbours start talking.
— W. H. Auden (1938) quoted in James Fenton, Auden at Home, The New York Review of Books, April 27 2000
Edited to add: I don’t share Auden’s certainty that poetry “makes us more difficult to deceive”. It’s an interesting assertion, though, and I’m wondering how one might test it…
Butcher’s Dog is a biannual poetry magazine, founded in the North-East of England. It has rotating co-editors, and a policy of anonymous submissions.
The 40-page issue 8 is co-edited by Sophie F Baker, Amy Mackelden, and Clare Pollard, with a cover by Isabel Rock. It contains work from 25 poets, and I’m delighted it includes my poem ‘headache (hoofbeats)’. I’ve really enjoyed reading the issue.
Thanks to all the editors!
Update Feb 2017: There’s a good review of the issue by Eleanor Benson at Cuckoo Review. My poem is described as a “hallucinatory and gritty monologue”.
The Stinging Fly is a journal from Dublin featuring short stories, essays and poems, by Irish and international writers. The 160-page Winter 2016-2017 issue has a theme of “Fear and Fantasy”, with a cover illustration by Gary Coyle. The guest editor for the issue is Mia Gallagher, and her compelling editorial for the issue was reprinted in The Irish Times (editorial here). Nineteen poets are represented in the issue, and I’m delighted my poem ‘The Trade’ is included.
Many thanks to Mia Gallagher, and the team at The Stinging Fly!
Every lover of books, scholar or not, who knows what it is to have his quarto open against a loaf at his tea … ought to be in possession of Mr. Coleridge’s poems, if it is only for ‘Christabel’, ‘Kubla Khan’, and the ‘Ancient Mariner’.
–Leigh Hunt, Examiner, 21st October 1821 (source: Wikipedia on ‘Kubla Khan’)
Recent poetry round-up (1): Cordite Poetry Review 56: Explode is out now, and I’m very pleased to say it contains my poem about Exploding Head Syndrome: ‘Exploding Head Manifesto‘.
It’s my second appearance in Cordite, after my earlier ‘Thy will be done‘.
Thanks to issue editor Dan Disney, and Kent MacCarter!
I’m really pleased that my poem about reincarnation ‘But after’ appears in the interesting and broadly-themed “Ghosts” issue of Eye to the Telescope.
Thanks to editor Shannon Connor Winward! Edited to add: and thanks too for her fascinating series of seven blog posts, talking about the selection process for the issue and her thoughts on the poems she chose (and their relation to each other, and sequencing). The blog posts are a great read. Here is the seventh and last post which includes discussion of ‘But after’ (there are links to the rest of the series at the end of the post).
Today sees the launch of the ninth issue of Liminality.
Really pleased to say that my poem ‘The Ritual‘ is included, my third appearance in the journal.
Thanks to Shira Lipkin and Mattie Joiner!
The Future Machines issue of Cordite Poetry Review from Australia is now online. It features an essay, artwork, articles, translations, interviews and reviews, as well as poetry chosen by issue poetry editor Bella Li. I’m very pleased to say that my poem ‘Thy will be done‘ is included.
Many thanks to Bella Li and Kent MacCarter.