Volume 98, Number 3/4
|I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen,
And accrue what I hear into myself….and let sounds contribute toward me.
—Walt Whitman (from “Song of Myself”)
Revisiting Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America in recent weeks, we came upon this provocative claim: “Nothing conceivable is so petty, so insipid, so crowded with paltry interests, in one word, so anti-poetic, as the life of a man in the United States.”
It’s easy, now, to laugh at such sweeping snobbism, but de Tocqueville was in earnest. What he foresaw in 1835 was a levelled and levelling culture, a society eager to reward mediocrity in the name of equality. To a highly educated European in those early years, American life must have seemed blandly pragmatic-lacking history and an interest in history, lacking aesthetic standards and an interest in aesthetics. He warned against the impulse to democratize the arts, gates flung wide to all comers.
Assessing the cultural climate today, we find he was on to something. America does reward mediocrity. Literary fiction and poetry rarely draw the national spotlight, which is trained instead on the best-seller list with its tell-all memoirs, formulaic suspense novels, lifestyle and self-help tomes. Yet today, at the edge of sight, American poetry is flourishing in variety and richness. It is our charge at Poet Lore, the nation’s oldest poetry journal, to seek it out and give it a stage.
In keeping with that goal, we’ve asked our contributing editors to alert us to poets they admire. In this issue, we’re pleased to inaugurate “Poets Introducing Poets” with Tony Hoagland’s introduction of Adrian Blevins. We can’t help thinking that Ms. Blevins’s “Channel 58” (the last poem in this issue) would have beguiled even de Tocqueville with its sardonic, expansive, quintessentially American voice.
Poems by Fleda Brown, Darin Ciccotelli, Ed Skoog, J.R. Solonche, Richard St. John, and others.
Poets Introducing Poets
Tony Hoagland introduces a portfolio of poems by Adrian Blevins.
The Fall by Dennis Nurkse
Black Series by Laurie Sheck
Ovid at Fifteen by Christopher Bursk