Volume 114, Number 1/2
[I] could only practice and dream of spinning things
—Mary Oliver (“The Juggler,” Poet Lore, 1970)
Editors’ Note: A Final Word
Poetry is worth nothing—and everything. As a commodity, it has so little value in our culture that one can steal it without fear of legal consequences. Yet we seek it at the most consequential moments in our lives, reading it at naming ceremonies and coming-of-age celebrations, at weddings and funerals.
Editing a print poetry journal draws one close to both truths. The task itself is both unprofitable and immeasurably enriching. During our seventeen-year tenure at Poet Lore, which draws to a close with this issue, we’ve had the opportunity to select, edit, and publish more than 3,000 pages of poetry. We’re grateful for the experience, which allowed us to work closely with so many gifted writers.
When Helen Clarke and Charlotte Porter founded Poet Lore in 1889, they described their aesthetic goal with humility and ardor. They acknowledged the “mystery of beauty” and wrote: “The heart of it cannot be plucked out by any editor or commentator. The approach to it…is a path one may search for as well as chance upon.”
How does one approach a mystery? We began by reviewing each submission without regard to reputation, seeking poems that ambushed us—musical language with the urgency of direct address. To test our instincts at editorial meetings, we read the work we’d selected for discussion aloud, listening for a sound that’s hard to describe but easy to discern. If a poem fell short in ways we could address, we corresponded with the poet, opening a discussion that was detailed and expansive. [. . .]
To read the entire editor’s note, follow the link to our new blog!