It’s common nowadays for editors of poetry collections to assert at the very beginning—in introductions like this—how various and unique are the poems they’ve collected, and how many individual perspectives are represented in the pages that follow, and so on, leading to the inevitable conclusion that American poetry is in a period of great creative ferment and that no one aesthetic rules the day. But how could it be otherwise? We believe that what Edward Field said in 1978 is true today. Uniformity of style, if it ever existed, is repugnant to the very idea of making art, and no two artists could produce exactly the same kind of work if they tried. “Schools” of art may foster shared principles, but in truth each individual, if he or she is really an artist, will produce work that is shaded, but not enslaved to, the general practice of the day. We learn from each other—and from the past—then go our way producing work that reflects, for better or worse, who we are and what we are capable of crafting.
So the work represented here both resembles, and does not resemble, the work of others, but its originality is, or should be, obvious in each word choice, in each poet’s approach to subject matter, tone of voice, or formal strategy, in their individual interests and obsessions, their unique relationship to language, and their primal experience of art, and what they have made of it.
From the dazzling, linguistic orchestrations of Elena Karina Byrne to the elegant, formal lyrics of David Starkey, the far-reaching meditations of Virginia Slachman and the stark, urban landscapes of a poet like Andrey Gritsman, or the familial poems into which Bruce Willard weaves a number of questioning voices, and the quirky, sophisticated southern California odes of Suzanne Lummis, these poets exhibit common influences but radically different sensibilities, personalizing various traditions in inventive and effective ways.
Add to these the inspired colloquialism of Steven Huff, the terse, tense lyrics of Eugenia Leigh, the wit and imagination of Shawn Delgado, Kamilah Aisha Moon’s affective portraits of human fallibility, the child’s-eye view of the world that turns Janlori Goldman’s poems into adult fables of good and evil, and Ginger Murchison’s crisp, sculptured memories of a southern upbringing and you have a perfect representation of the spectrum of work that characterizes our poetry today. No mainstream, but a wide, turbulent, forward rolling river into which manifold influences flow.
We are happy to present the work of these poets and hopeful it will find a greater audience in the future. Each of them is a working poet, a poet who has something to say, and believes in the efficacy of art. Even in these economically challenging times. Not all poetry is a celebration, but we can celebrate the fact that poetry flourishes and poets continue to write, working to make something valuable, useful, and lasting out of their own experience and the language they’ve been given. Poets write because they have to write, hoping sooner or later the world will take note. In a modest way, we are taking note.
Photo by Star Black