From the Ether
Contemplating the Outside
One of the buzz words this past campaign season was “outsider”—candidates jockeying for position as team captains of Change, bragging they were not of this or that establishment or “in” group. On the eve of November 4th, when the people elected Barack Obama to the presidency, the moment dazzled, for a few seconds eclipsing the shameful legacy of “outsiderness” African-Americans have experienced in the United States.
And yet on that same eve, the state of California (“physical” home to the DMQ Review—that is, where our editor-in-chief lives and where the magic happens that turns e-mailed poems into a poetry journal) saw its electorate formalize one group’s “outsider” status as Proposition 8 passed. I suppose it’s human nature that draws us toward categorization and cliques, that assists us in drawing lines in the sand once we’ve ensured we are on the side of the line to which no harm will come.
And I’d like to say that poetry elevates us to places from which we don’t make such distinctions. Unfortunately, the poetry world, too, has its cliques and divisions, its desire to affirm one school or style over another, to draw battle lines between spoken word and words on the page, “accessible” poetry and “academic” poetry, and on an on. Sigh. Did I mention human nature? However, it’s the poems themselves that can take us beyond all that. A friend e-mailed a William Stafford poem* to me a few weeks ago. It begins, “For intervals, then, throughout our lives/we savor a concurrence, the great blending/of our chance selves with what sustains/all chance...” Receiving these words among my 2,000+ Inbox messages was a balm for this weary, over-commercialled, over-robocalled, just plain over-stimulated poet...
We hope you enjoy the blending of art and poetry in this issue: the dazzling fabric appliqués of Chris Roberts-Antieau, new work from featured poet Ellen Bass, and poems from contributors far and near. And may you, as Chad Sweeney writes in this issue’s “Fire Escape As Axis Mundi,” find moments that are “nostalgic and prophetic,/the dna of a century,//falling into the past/and future equally//falling from a place beyond both...”
* What I received was actually one stanza of three from an untitled piece found on page 81 of Stafford’s 1978 book Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation (published by The University of Michigan Press: www.press.umich.edu). Paul Merchant, a William Stafford archivist at Lewis & Clark College, tells us that Stafford wrote the piece while he was on the road (likely in Platteville, Wisconsin) on March 1, 1976.
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