From the Ether

editor’s note

 *


On Community
                                                                                Thou reader throbbest life and pride and love the same as I,
                                                                                                                Therefore for thee the following chants.
                                                                                                                                                —Walt Whitman       


Poets often work in solitude, but their work almost always intends an audience. That audience may be loved ones, other poets, the random reader trolling the web, or, ideally, someone not yet born, who, long into the future discovers someone’s poem she thinks must have been written for her and her alone. We want from poetry what we want from nothing else. Or, put a different way, we want poetry to be like nothing else. We don’t want it to be news, though it can enlighten. We don’t want it to be self-help, though it can, like, you know . . . help. We don’t really want it to be didactic, but if it teaches us something, okay. We ask poetry to respond to every invitation we have Or, should I say, poets do. I had no idea I wanted a poem about Jeremy Lin, but Anvhu Buchanan reminded me I did. Had I been pining for a Traklesque poem about a Uriel Crow? Yes! But, how did T. Zachary Cotler know this? This semester, I’m teaching a creative writing seminar on writing and politics that links up with the Presidential campaign and the election, and I was wondering if there were any poems about congress. Thank you Lisa Hiton for your reading my mind and writing such an astonishingly good poem.

I asked my students if poetry is red or blue, or if it, as James Joyce might have argued, is above politics. They didn’t really know the answer to that, and neither do I, but I suspect politics is the gregarious neighbor to poetry, that guy who talks to you all the time when you’re trying to get out the door, who’s always trying to get you to try some restaurant or see some movie. Poetry is everyone’s neighbor. It’s there when you need it. You need some sugar? No problem.

This is my last issue on the editorial board of DMQ—at least for a while—and I feel lucky to be part of this community. If W. Todd Kaneko is right, if, we “are wired for the end,” I can live with that. I think of Dickinson alone in her room wondering about that reader decades, centuries into the future. What faith to keep going. She had it right, as does Kaneko:

Now, I grind my teeth—the sparks
blush bright against the blacktop
because there is nothing to burn.
When the lights go out, you spit up
swarms of fireflies, set the night ablaze
with a promise of a good fight. We walk
into a new day, our bodies glowing.

 

Dean Rader
Editor

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