Volume 98, Number 1/2
|Over hill, over dale,
Through bush, through brier,
Over park, over pale,
Through flood, through fire,
I do wander everywhere….
—William ShakespeareWhat does it all mean, poet? Well,
Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only; you express’d
You hold things beautiful the best,
And pace them in rhyme so, side by side,
‘Tis something, nay ’tis much: but then,
Have you yourself what’s best for men?
One hundred and fourteen years ago, a succession of spring storms hit Washington, D.C.-halting commerce, overwhelming root cellars and basements, turning the capital’s wide dirt streets to muck and mire. The resulting “great flood” of 1889 is pictured on this issue’s cover.
In the same year, a new magazine brought out its first monthly issue. Founded in Philadelphia by two young women, Helen Clarke and Charlotte Porter, Poet Lore set out to explore “Shakespeare, Browning, and the Comparative Study of Literature.” In 1891, the magazine moved to Boston, and although scholarship continued to be the editors’ central interest, they also published in translation the original works of such writers as Ibsen, Strindberg, D’Annunzio, Gorky, and Tagore-presenting these authors to many American readers for the first time.
In the spring of 2003, after more than a century of continuous publication, Poet Lore is clearly distinguishable from the journal Clarke and Porter founded. We now welcome the new American poetry that deluges our office in every season. As we consider each submission, we keep in mind the fact that Emily Dickinson wrote some 2,000 poems of which 50 or so are considered her gifts to the world. Our percentage as readers is roughly equivalent to hers as a writer: it is that select gathering of work by known and unknown poets that we offer in these pages-along with fine reviews of several recently published books.
Not all the news here is as promising. These days, threats to our city are color coded and more harrowing than flooded streets. We can almost feel nostalgic for a time when natural disasters caused such alarm. Echoing Browning’s question (“What does it all mean, poet?”), we find ourselves asking what, if anything, can poetry provide in a crisis? Perhaps the power of its language to comfort and to challenge makes it relevant-and necessary-even now.
Poems by Gabriel Arquilevich, Michael Conrad Dickman, Gregory Orfalea, R.T. Smith, Eric Tretheway, and others.
Spar by Karen Volkman
Stars at Noon by Enid Shomer
Steal Away, Selected and New Poems by C.D. Wright
The Bodies We Were Loaned by Maria Terrone
Arbor Vitae by Jane Augustine