Prose from Poetry Magazine

Straight to the Source

Poetry magazine’s editors introduce the Q & A issue.

by The Editors

Here at Poetry we generally agree with T.S. Eliot’s notion that “poetry can communicate before it is understood.” In fact, we might go even further and say that to enjoy a poem in this sense—to respond bodily to its formal movement and sounds, the shape it cuts in the mind’s ear—is to understand it in some primary way. There are even poems that exist wholly on this plane, poems that seem not so much hostile to meaning as beautifully immune to it. Not many, though. Which is why, in our editorial meetings, after our initial recognition and appreciation of the formal values of a poem, we often find ourselves focusing on particular lines or stanzas in just the same way that—as we can tell from our letters to the editor—our readers do. We bring some of these discussions into our podcast, and we encourage all of our readers to listen in each month at In this issue, though, we thought we’d reprise something we did a couple of years ago and take the process a step further. For one of the great perks of this job is that, when we find ourselves puzzling over something in a poem or wondering why a particular choice was made, we can go straight to the source and put our poets on the spot. What do you think about the poets’ explanations of their work? We’d love to hear your thoughts. You can write us at


Originally Published: April 1, 2010


On May 24, 2010 at 1:36pm James Batts wrote:

Thank you for providing Anna Kamienska's enlightening comments concerning the poetic process, a dynamic process in which each poem is a "vestibule," a "sampling," a "foretaste," a cognitive odyssey involving all of us as we search individually and collectively for relationship and meaning. Jan Twardowski's "signs of confidence" and "question marks" succinctly suggests the agony and ecstasy involved in riding the waves of thought and feeling, the thrill of privacy and communion, the joy of being and becoming. Poetry is a cognitive grenade, a painful intrusion, a gentle caress. Poetry needs to read just as people need to be loved.

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This prose originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2010

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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