Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry magazine began with the “Open Door”:
May the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, or half-shut, against his ample genius! To this end the editors hope to keep free of entangling alliances with any single class or school. They desire to print the best English verse which is being written today, regardless of where, by whom, or under what theory of art it is written.
In its first year Poetry published William Carlos Williams and William Butler Yeats; Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” and Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”; and introduced Rabindranath Tagore to the English-speaking world just before he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
The magazine has since published a new issue every month for one hundred years. Perhaps most famous for having been the first to publish T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (and, later, John Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror”), Poetry also championed the early works of H.D., Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Marianne Moore. It was first to recognize many poems that are now widely anthologized: “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks, Briggflatts by Basil Bunting, “anyone lived in a pretty how town” by E.E. Cummings, “Chez Jane” by Frank O’Hara, “Fever 103°” by Sylvia Plath, “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg, “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens, and many others. Poetry’s pages have also seen Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Tennessee Williams, to name just a few.
Today, Poetry regularly presents new work by the most recognized poets, but its primary commitment is still to discover new voices. In recent years, over a third of the poets published have been new to the magazine. Annual translation issues deepen readers’ engagement with foreign-language poetry, and regular Q&A features present conversations with poets about their work. Poetry is also known for its enlivening “Comment” section, featuring book reviews, essays, notebooks, and “The View from Here” column, which highlights artists and professionals from outside the poetry world writing about their experience of poetry. Recent installments have included pieces by actor Lili Taylor, web guru Xeni Jardin, the late columnist Christopher Hitchens, novelist William T. Vollmann, musician Neko Case, cartoonist Lynda Barry, and the author of the “Lemony Snicket” children’s series, Daniel Handler.
The complete archive of the magazine is available free online, as are related audio, video, and monthly podcasts in which editors Christian Wiman and Don Share discuss the current issue, talk to poets and critics, and share their poem selections with listeners. In 2011 Poetry was awarded two National Magazine Awards: for Best Podcast and for General Excellence in Print. As critic Adam Kirsch says, “Poetry has done what long seemed impossible . . . it has become indispensable reading for anyone who cares about American literature.”