Volume 103, Number 3/4
|It is true of the Nation, as of the individual,
that the greatest doer
must also be a great dreamer.
Does contemporary American poetry need protection? Is it becoming an endangered resource? As editors of the nation’s oldest poetry journal, now in its 119th year of publication, we sometimes feel like literary conservationists, working to maintain an environment in which the best new poems can thrive.
In our cover photo, President Theodore Roosevelt addresses a rally in Wyoming, surrounded by images of birds and beasts. This hunter and naturalist was more than an outdoorsman: he was a pragmatic visionary, an activist who made conservation central to his administration. His warning from a century ago strike us now as chilling prescient. In a speech to Congress in December of 1907, he said: “Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.” Teddy had it right: he foresaw—and framed—the very issues that are under debate today as another presidential campaign draws to a close.
What kind of resource are we preserving at Poet Lore? We see our magazine as a kind of literary habitat where diverse poetic voices can coexist and flourish. In this issue, we invite back past contributors like Tim May and Richard Foerster while insuring space for newcomers like Kimi Cunningham Grant, who is publishing her work for the first time. We hope you’ll put down your rake to reed Alice Pero’s “Falling Leaves” and Caryn Lazzuri’s “Epistle” (which begins “Dear Back Yard, Dear Autumn”). Along with lyrical and narrative poems that celebrate the turning of the year within natural landscapes, poets in this issue address the seasons of a human life–most notably in Leslie Ullman’s powerful 12-part sequence, “The Transits of Saturn.”
And we thank Nancy Scott for reminding us about the intricate drama of race relations, another topic of keen interest in this election year, in “Princeton: At the Alchemist & Barrister, 1990.” Wasn’t it Teddy Roosevelt himself who had the courage to invite Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House in 1901? One can only hope they discussed poetry as well as politics.
Finally, we’re please to feature the work of Gardner McFall, introduced here by contributing editor Jane Shore. Ms. McFall’s work seems to us essentially American in its willingness to imagine and question history. At the end of “Stopping at the True, the Good, the Beautiful Company in Bac Ninh,” she imagines a bomber’s view of the Vietnamese village where she, years after the war, is buying gifts: “a woman wearing / her conical hat with her buffalo / in a field of rice, which my father saw / and knew, high and small, from the air.” This transforming view is among the many we hope to offer you in the pages that follow. Welcome to another issue of Poet Lore.
Poems by Tim Mayo, Kimi Cunningham Grant, Alice Pero, Alex Dimitrov, Leslie Ullman, and others.
Poets Introducing Poets
Jane Shore introduces Gardner McFall
Against the Grain: The Literary Life of a Poet by Reed Whittemore
Woman Reading to the Sea by Lisa Williams
Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones by Dzvinia Orlowsky
Crucifixion in the Plaza de Armas by Martin Espada
Underwater Lengths in a Single Breath by Benjamin S. Grossberg