In honor of National Poetry Month, Joseph Epstein had this to say in this month’s The Wall Street Journal about old versus new poetry: “But nearly all the poetry written since the years those poets wrote doesn’t register, resonate, ring, do any of the elevating things that poetry is supposed to, and once indeed did, do.” He continues with a declaration that “otherwise the poetry game is over, kaput, fini, time, gentlemen, time.”
Well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I have to disagree with Joseph Epstein’s pronouncement of the death of poetry. When I was a senior in college, I took what would prove to be the most influential class of my entire education: Introduction to Poetry, taught by Professor Fred Pollack. During that class I learned that all of the ideas I expressed in pages and pages of fiction could be expressed in just a few lines, with the story alive in the white space of what was not said. I learned to be precise with my language; to make every line honest; to appreciate all of the tools, metaphors and alliteration and rhythms that would enrich not only my poetry but my prose and nonfiction forever. Most of all, I learned that great poetry was alive in university classrooms, that it thrived in the scribbled notebooks of writers both published and private, that it had transformed over the years since T. S. Eliot but retained all of its potential for truth and beauty.
I’m not saying every modern poem is a great work of art; there is a lot of bad poetry out there, but there has always been a lot of bad poetry out there! For those poets who live and breathe poetry, who sit by their fireplaces with poets both living and dead as their companions, who keep writing despite how many critics and writers declare their passion a dead one, I say this: keep writing. And keep reading other poets, like the men and women in this issue of Outside In, who can take the reader to Kiev, Ukraine and Huancayo, Peru like Mary Ellen Dingley, or Piazza dei Miracoli like Uche Ogbuji, and can make the reader taste the food and feel the sun on his or her skin in just a few lines. Keep submitting to our magazine, so that we can work to keep poetry alive.
Speaking of submissions, this month marks a shift in our Photostories category to include more snapshots of your journeys. Starting in the May issue, we will take submissions of individual photos related to one theme; May’s theme is A Smile from a Stranger, a chance to remember a stranger who made your day once, and June’s theme is What I Brought Back, a look at treasured souvenirs. More information about the upcoming themes, photos and captions can be found on the submissions portion of this site.
With Respect for Poets Everywhere,
Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine