Prose from Poetry Magazine

The Motive of the Magazine

by Harriet Monroe
In the huge democracy of our age no interest is too slight to have an organ. Every sport, every little industry requires its own corner, its own voice, that it may find its friends, greet them, welcome them.

The arts especially have need of each an entrenched place, a voice of power, if they are to do their work and be heard. For as the world grows greater day by day, as every member of it, through something he buys or knows or loves, reaches out to the ends of the earth, things precious to the race, things rare and delicate, may be overpowered, lost in the criss-cross of modern currents, the confusion of modern immensities.

Painting, sculpture, music are housed in palaces in the great cities of the world; and every week or two a new periodical is born to speak for one or the other of them, and tenderly nursed at some guardian's expense. Architecture, responding to commercial and social demands, is whipped into shape by the rough and tumble of life and fostered, willy-nilly, by men's material needs. Poetry alone, of all the fine arts, has been left to shift for herself in a world unaware of its immediate and desperate need of her, a world whose great deeds, whose triumphs over matter, over the wilderness, over racial enmities and distances, require her eve-living voice to give them glory and glamour.

Poetry has been left to herself and blamed for inefficiency, a process as unreasonable as blaming the desert for barrenness. This art, like every other, is not a miracle of direct creation, but a reciprocal relation between the artist and his public. The people must do their part if the poet is to tell their story to the future; they must cultivate and irrigate the soil if the desert is to blossom as the rose.

The present venture is a modest effort to give to poetry her own place, her own voice. The popular magazines can afford her but scant courtesy— a Cinderella corner in the ashes—because they seek a large public which is not hers, a public which buys them not for their verse but for their stories, pictures, journalism, rarely for their literature, even in prose. Most magazine editors say that there is no public for poetry in America; one of them wrote to a young poet that the verse his monthly accepted "must appeal to the barber's wife of the Middle West," and others prove their distrust by printing less verse from year to year, and that rarely beyond page-end length and importance.

We believe that there is a public for poetry, that it will grow, and that as it becomes more numerous and appreciative the work produced in this art will grow in power, in beauty, in significance. In this belief we have been encouraged by the generous enthusiasm of many subscribers to our fund, by the sympathy of other lovers of the art, and by the quick response of many prominent poets, both American and English, who have sent or promised contributions.

We hope to publish in Poetry some of the best work now being done in English verse. Within space limitations set at present by the small size of our monthly sheaf, we shall be able to print poems longer, and of more intimate and serious character, than the popular magazines can afford to use. The test, limited by ever—fallible human judgment, is to be quality alone; all forms, whether narrative, dramatic or lyric, will be acceptable. We hope to offer our subscribers a place of refuge, a green isle in the sea, where Beauty may plant her gardens, and Truth, austere revealer of joy and sorrow, of hidden delights and despairs, may follow her brave quest unafraid.
Originally Published: October 30, 2005

COMMENTS (1)

On May 8, 2012 at 8:46am vanderleun wrote:
"We hope to publish in Poetry some of the best work now being done in
English verse. "

A fine aspiration, but it probably won't last. These little magazines are so transitory.

POST A COMMENT

Poetryfoundation.org welcomes comments that foster dialogue and cultivate an open community on the site. Comments on articles must be approved by the site moderators before they appear on the site. By submitting a comment, you give the Poetry Foundation the right to publish it. Please note: We require comments to include a name and e-mail address. Read more about our privacy policy.

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This prose originally appeared in the October 1912 issue of Poetry magazine

October 1912

Related

Audio Article Events
 Harriet  Monroe

Biography

As founder and editor of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, Harriet Monroe became instrumental in the "poetry renaissance" of the early twentieth century by managing a forum that allowed poets and poetry to gain American exposure. In the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Daniel J. Cahill and Laura Ingram wrote: "The abundant richness of this movement might well have been less spectacular without the encouragement and vitality which . . .

Continue reading this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.