Volume 102, Number 3/4
|Reading makes immigrants of us all.
It takes us away from home, but more important,
it finds homes for us everywhere.
In 1890, the year after Poet Lore published its inaugural issue, President Benjamin Harrison established Ellis Island, America’s first federal immigration station. Between 1892 to 1954, more than twelve million people entered the country through this place, once known to Native Americans as Kioshk or Gull Island.
The new arrivals in our cover photo may have found some comfort in the words of poet Emma Lazarus, who reminded everyone that the Statue of Liberty—”The New Colossus” standing within the broken circles of her shackles–was also the “Mother of Exiles.” A century later, as we debate the need to build fences and secure our borders, we might ask ourselves what we’re trying to protect, and from whom.
Ours is a nation that loves freedom, and to preserve it many Americans, new immigrants among them, have given their lives. But we are dreamers as well as doers. What keeps us strong today is more than our shared commitment to liberty for all; it is a common language that emanates from the heart. Might that common language be poetry?
At Poet Lore, we would like to believe that “open pages” are just as important as open doors. If we are the children of Walt Whitman, then we know our arms will always embrace multitudes. It’s our intent as editors that a variety of voices will find an audience here. Just as immigration enriches our nation, a diversity of poetic styles enriches a journal with a long and illustrious literary history. As editors we continue to extend our hands, reaching to welcome good work from all quarters. Editing, like citizenship, involves such responsibilities.
Among the many noteworthy poems in this issue, we’d like to invite you to read Faisal Mohyuddin’s “Blood Harmonies,” in which the son of an immigrant mother contemplates the mosaic of his cultural identity, as well as Iranian-American poet Roger Sederat’s startling “Agha D,” concerning the political danger Persian poets have faced through the centuries. And Ken Hart—presented here by contributing editor Tony Hoadland in his second tour of duty in “Poets Introducing Poets”—offers insights into our prejudices about immigrants and exotic dancers in “The Russian Women.” But perhaps we hear America singing most clearly in the final lines of “The Name” by Alejandro Escude, who blesses his unborn son’s freedom “to call himself by a name / that belongs to the whole of human history.” Welcome, poets—and welcome, readers—to a new edition of Poet Lore.
Poems by Faisal Mohyuddin, Roger Sedarat, Franke Varca, Traci Brimhall, Alejandro Escude, and others.
The Domain of Perfect Affection by Robin Becker
Innocence by Jean Nordhaus
Hoops by Major Jackson
Darling Vulgarity by Michael Waters