the atlantic poetry editor

All Rights Reserved. I’m certainly not ready to write off the existence of that semi-mythical creature, the common reader—unlike the unicorn or the manticore, empirical evidence suggests that there’s a population out there that still answers to that description. There’s a “Houdini Sutra,” a “Satchmo Sutra,” a “Great Stone Face Sutra” (that’s Buster Keaton), and so forth. All forms were nonce forms, once upon a time, and I want to see if I can kindle a spark of that original sense of discovery and immediacy in a way that won’t seem dutiful or mechanical: ideally, the occasion and the expediency will come off as a seamless whole. Even so, it seems to me that we ought to resist the temptation to feel either superior or nostalgic in relation to our literary ancestors. You’re talking about my “New World Sutras,” a sequence of poems that constellate around archetypal American personas that grip me for one reason or another. He won the 2017 Bermuda Triangle Poetry Prize, and was the First Runner-Up for the 2019 Fischer Poetry Prize. Then there’s Theodore Roethke’s “The Dance,” which is the first section of a stellar poem of his called “Four for Sir John Davies” and shows him at the height of his powers. He also acquired last year’s winner, Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other . Become a subscriber Enjoy unlimited access to all of The Atlantic’s journalism, starting at less than $1 per week. Barber also applies this omnivorous appreciation for variety to his own poems, which combine deep erudition with a magpie eclecticism. What made you want to adopt and Americanize such a non-English form? What must it have been like to flip open the page to that magisterial piece of work? We’re all captives of our times, like insects trapped in amber. It was another attempt to get inside the skin of historical figures, this time with an exclusive focus on those who left some indelible mark on the American imagination. April is National Poetry Month, which makes it a good time to celebrate The Atlantic ’s literary heritage. So why write a ballade? You’ve just got to hope that Pound was right when he said poetry is news that stays news, and leave the rest to the fates. The Atlantic was born on the cusp of modernism (two years after the first edition of Leaves of Grass and the same year Baudelaire published his incendiary Les Fleurs du Mal), and even a visionary like Emerson couldn’t quite have imagined how all the old classical verities about poetry and art were about to be turned inside out and upside down. Reserved. In our editorial work today, but also in our internal practice, we are to honor and build on that work. Chris Jackson is the publisher and editor-in-chief of One World, an imprint of Random House. As for the terza rima, the motive there was almost purely mimetic: I was looking for a way to animate my treatment of those ancient Inca artifacts known as quipus, which were intricate woven objects employed for record-keeping and storytelling in place of written language. Otherwise, you might as well be writing in sentences. Brute productivity is one kind of vitality, I guess, but you have to wonder if the supply is really being driven by demand. Poetry in translation looks to be thriving as well, which generally speaks well for the health and vitality of the body poetic: Seamus Heaney’s version of Beowulf was a bonafide bestseller not long ago, and we’re seeing some terrific translations of modern Eastern European and Latin American poets coming down the pike. In the case of William Wells, here was a figure of some importance in his day who’s now all but forgotten, like just about all of us will be. His most recent collection of poems is Secret History. His acceptance letters were often suitable for framing, but so were those that dispensed tonic advice to younger poets or offered a piece of his mind on bugbears like wobbly prosody, wayward grammar, or period mannerisms like the rampant use of the first-person indicative. Frequently Asked Questions. My poems have become more peopled, more inhabited, over the years, and I think that’s because I’ve gravitated toward elegies and apostrophes for the sense of narrative and dramatic occasion they provide. My primary job was sifting through the weekly haul of submissions and writing up thumbnail commentaries on the ones that were the strongest prospects for publication. Reading was everything, and poetry was on everyone’s shelves. It’s not likely we’re going to see a wholesale resurgence of that kind of thing, but you never know. The Atlantic poetry editorship is an especially sensitive post; not only does it require the recognition of good writing in whatever strange and innovative forms it might take, but it also comes with the amorphous assignment of meeting the poetry needs of a general interest magazine. A magazine that endures for generations can’t help but reflect that, for better or for worse. Liking the sound of certain lines chiming and jangling around in my head probably had everything to do with it. Another marvelous poem that comes to mind is Robert Hass’s “Heroic Simile,” from 1976. As our poetry editor, David Barber, wrote in … Many of these poems are “formal”; some use famously difficult received forms like the ballade and terza rima, and others use forms you seem to have invented. Historically speaking, poetry has only had a scant toehold in general-interest magazines, even back in their heyday when there were a lot more of them than there are now. But it’s an especially compelling question to ponder under this roof because poets were key players in the founding of The Atlantic: James Russell Lowell was the first editor and Emerson and Longfellow were sort of the godfathers of the braintrust. Now that you mention it, I suppose that line from “Ode to William Wells” verges on an artistic credo: I have a thing for unearthing stray historical facts and occurrences, and I’m convinced there’s something rewarding and perhaps even redemptive about the effort to recover relics and remnants of the past that might otherwise vanish into the dust-bin of history. Submission guidelines advise, “A general familiarity with what we have published in the past is the best guide to what we’re looking for.” Regardless of whether you’re availing yourself of received forms or making it up as you go along, writing with a sense of form means fine-tuning your facility for prosody, which is just a fancy way of saying that you’re paying close attention to how the poem’s lines are working. In the poem “Eulogy for an Anchorite,” for example, my primary source was an obit I happened across at the breakfast table. Is it important to do both? Taking the long view, I think it’s probably fair to say that The Atlantic has run hot and cold on poetry, depending on the disposition of the editor at the helm: there were periods when conventional verse sentiments predominated, and stretches marked by a rather more venturesome spirit. Who really knows how the switch gets thrown? He conscripts Houdini, Louis Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Audubon, and the Flying Wallendas (“the ‘first family’ of high-wire aerialists”), and quarters these luminaries alongside equally alluring minor figures: obsessed Dutch tulip-traders, Kyrgyzstani eagle trainers, and Luther Burbank,  “the most celebrated horticulturist” of the late nineteenth century. As the late Stanley Kunitz once wrote, the true vocation of the poet is to be a generalist, “a person speaking to persons.”. David Barber is the poetry editor at The Atlantic. Fashions come and go in poetry just like in every other field, and so a good deal of what gets ballyhooed as the next big thing turns out to be fleeting bubbles of small beer. But seriously, I can’t recall any sort of scintillating conversion experience. David Barber, a poet himself and longtime poetry editor at The Atlantic, says they are running far less poetry than in the past.“By the measure of editorial inches alone, The Atlantic simply can’t be as welcoming to poets as it once was. I think that holds true when you first start scribbling down lines of your own too: it’s play before it’s work, imitation before it’s self-expression, pure pleasure before it morphs into freighted ambition. Eliot once wrote that poetry can communicate before it’s understood, but that still assumes that the poet has something to communicate that ultimately justifies a certain degree of mystification. Poems by This Poet Prose by this Poet. It can be a biography, a museum catalogue, a letter, a photo caption, a newspaper obituary, a telling quotation that seems to me to aspire to the condition of an aphorism—by and large, the more ephemeral and antiquarian the better. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com. Van Duyn read with Peter Davison, a Boston-based poet and editor who was best known for his four decades of work as a literary editor for the Atlantic Monthly Press and Houghton Mifflin, and his thirty years as poetry editor of The Atlantic Monthly. Marie Howe is the author of four volumes of poetry: Magdalene: Poems (W.W. Norton, 2017); The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W.W. Norton, 2009); What the Living Do (1997); and The Good Thief (1988). There’s no going back to the days when poetry was widely seen as having a morally uplifting, even civilizing function—“the best that has been thought and said,” as Matthew Arnold put it—and most of us wouldn’t want to book a ride there in the wayback machine even if we could. First published in 1857, the Atlantic Monthly, was founded, in part, to weigh in on the great debate of that century – to editorialize that all men are created equal and free. In poems about historical figures like Wells, how did you choose the people to write about, and then what was it like doing the research? Peter Davison, who for almost half a century was a pillar of the Boston literary and publishing world, thanks to his many years as an editor at the Atlantic … All Rights It gave me a fixed unit of measure to work with, and I got drawn into the technical challenge of using syllabics as a kind of stealth prosody, a notational pattern that insinuates itself surreptitiously in the flexing of syntax rather than in the pulse of accentual stresses. Editorial Inquiries. Reading poetry in a general magazine shouldn’t smack of a homework assignment or taking your medicine. With the large number of submissions that come to The Atlantic, you have to discriminate very quickly. Highly respected magazine, The Atlantic publishes both big names and emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I’m partial to the clutch of lyrics we published by Edward Arlington Robinson from around World War I and several by Howard Nemerov that date from the ’50s and ’60s, owing to their unobtrusive mastery of versification and intonation. Herewith, a consideration of a poem by Lincoln that appeared in The Atlantic. I wouldn’t know how to read tea leaves like that. Poets still held bragging rights as the unacknowledged legislators of the world, and here in the Hub of the Universe they were all but officially consecrated as such. A ballade is a lyric form built on set refrains, and I also just like playing around with patterns of repetition and recurrence, seeing what can be done with the incantatory acoustics of variation and modulation. Something about them speaks to me, and in turn I want to see if I can speak for them. Poets have become a professional caste over the last generation or so, and that’s something of a mixed blessing: I see a lot of work that’s competent but generic, and a steady stream of writing that doesn’t have much aesthetic courage of conviction beyond raw ambition. We are interested in original, unpublished poetry. Grove Atlantic has created a six-person executive committee to help CEO Morgan Entrekin run the publisher and increased the entry-level salary to $40,000. The Atlantic covers news, politics, culture, technology, health, and more, through its articles, podcasts, videos, and flagship magazine. But I think the more you train and trust your ear, the more readily you’re able to discern whether a poet’s particular brand of sound and sense is earning its keep with conviction and precision. Poet Laureate Donald Hall and British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion participated in a historic series of joint poetry readings in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and London, sharing the stage for the first time and reacquainting the … It’s not just sonority I’m listening for: I also like poems that kick up a fine ruckus, poems written with acerbic wit or sly irony, and ones that that make persuasive use of colloquial speech in quirky or spooky ways. Reading Randall Jarrell’s The Bat Poet at a tender age probably had something to do with it. There was no mass media, there was no mass culture in the modern sense of the term. Upon learning, for instance, that a 98-year-old beekeeper “bobbed to the top of Kilimanjaro” looking for a particular strain of insects, Barber writes “It buoys me simply to think of it”—and it’s impossible not to concur. ← Back to The Atlantic. Photo by Saila Huusko. So I first try tuning into a poem’s frequency—I almost want to liken it to listening to birdsong. It all depends. I find it awfully hard to generalize, however. All that said, I don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense for an editor to select poems based on some hazy notion of popularity or accessibility. "Robert Frost—The First Three Poems and One That Got Away", “Birches” and “The Road Not Taken”. His gusto and generosity of spirit were positively contagious. That’s a ticklish question. That it gets taught in workshops? If you make up your mind that poems are too cryptic or inscrutable to bother with, then you’re bound to be left in the dark. You’ll have to ask the bewhiskered sepia portraits on the walls! Talk about furthering one’s education! It waxes and it wanes. I figure that’s what Dickinson is telling us when she says, “I Dwell in Possibility—A fairer House than Prose.”. The Atlantic is always interested in great nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. As an author, a teacher, and an editor, she helped define … In one poem, for example, you directly address Williams Wells, a Victorian scientist who wrote a treatise on dew. The monthly news magazine The Atlantic once stood out for its inclusion of poetry and fiction in its pages. In the letter, Van Duyn writes: You write: “There’s a touch of the sublime in your arcane fixation.” What is it about arcane fixations that you find sublime? The Edge of Home: Milton Acorn from the Island (editor, 2002) Coastlines: The Poetry of Atlantic Canada (co-editor, 2002) Meetings with Maritime Poets (2006) Poetry. Most of the poems in this book are about historical figures or events, but some seem more autobiographical. The Atlantic wants to hear what you think. The Atlantic Magazine. Do you think, when choosing poems, about whether they will “last”? Following Davison’s death in December 2004, Barber took on the position of poetry editor, and on his watch the world of Atlantic poetry has remained true to its longstanding philosophy: rather than defining an ideal Atlantic poem or endorsing a particular House aesthetic, he has aimed to publish poems, in any style, that, as he puts it, strike him with their “inflected intensity… ideas, originality, verve.”. There’s reams of poetry getting cranked out nowadays of all varieties: the profession may be a cottage industry compared with what the big-league “content providers” are doing, but lately it’s beginning to look more like this sprawling bazaar where you can find a ready supply of whatever suits your fancy. As a longtime enthusiast of aphorisms, epigrams, and the like, I couldn’t resist updating this concept a bit, and I was further emboldened by the fact that sutras took all kinds of eclectic forms as they evolved into one of the principal modes of Buddhist and Hindu scripture. Over the next 59 years, Rich (1929–2012) would herself alter both poetry and history. He’s the editor of a wide range of award-winning and bestselling authors, including Bryan Stevenson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jill Leovy, Trevor Noah, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ibram X. Kendi, Valarie … Back in the day people had to memorize wagonloads of poetry in school, and there used to be a fairly robust tradition of composing punchy occasional and epigrammatical verse as a form of editorial punditry, like Calvin Trillin still does in his “Deadline Poet” column in The Nation, bless his forked tongue. The Atlantic - In 1952, in her native Baltimore, Adrienne Rich delivered her first public lecture, “Some Influences of Poetry Upon the Course of History.” She was 23. 48. I’m not sure why it is that poetry oftentimes gives otherwise openminded and well-informed folks the jitters—maybe it’s because they reflexively associate it with Gradgrind pedantry or can’t get past the suspicion that poems are trying to put something over on them. I don’t cotton to the notion that poets have an obligation to speak for collective experience, but it’s an honorable tradition worth preserving and I think it can be a welcome corrective to the claustrophobic solipsism that’s an occupational hazard of so much testimonial writing. Do you try to counteract it through the poems you select for The Atlantic, and if so, how? Submissions to The Atlantic Submit a piece for editorial consideration at The Atlantic; Submit a Letter To The Editor; Submit a letter to the Dear Therapist column Poet Bio. The same goes for Frost poems like “Birches” and “The Road Not Taken”: no matter how many anthologies they appear in, they’re still imperishable. I’m beginning to see signs that a taste for humorous and satirical verse might be making a comeback, and that’s an altogether welcome development for those of us given to lamenting over the lost art of keeping an uncivil tongue in one’s head. TheAtlantic.com Copyright (c) 2020 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. When people find out I write poems, they almost invariably tell me that they don’t understand poetry. That intimidation factor seems to have become a commonplace, hasn’t it? But the custom of running poems in periodicals edited for a general readership reminds us that poetry hasn’t always been thought of as something lofty or rarefied: the poems weren’t just there to lend a veneer of genteel sophistication (though I suppose that might have been the motive in some cases) but as a recognition that they were another kind of reading material that intellectually curious folks took an interest in. The Atlantic is an American magazine and multi-platform publisher. All in all, then, I’m inclined to take a leaf from E. M. Forster’s sensible appraisal of democracy—two cheers for contemporary poetry. You have to go with your gut, and hope you win a few converts along the way. It’s the process of wedding a certain sense of line with a certain turn of mind, so as to sustain a certain distinctive tone or quality of speech. In many of the poems in Wonder Cabinet, you’re writing about people with very specific, esoteric interests. Appeared in Poetry Magazine. It’s probably a safe bet that most formative experiences with art are primal experiences, and what’s primal about poetry is the sound and the rhythm, as distinct from the sense or the significance. TheAtlantic.com Copyright (c) 2020 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. And when it comes to an intricately interwoven stanzaic form, there’s no beating terza rima. On the many contradictions of Rudyard Kipling Obama dabbled in poetry as young adults who wrote treatise! 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