When my issue of Poetry arrives in the mail each month, I can't wait to sit down and read it cover to cover. I know I will discover some forceful poems, memorable lines, and provocative ideas about poetry, as an art and as a profession. Even when I read a poem that strikes me as flat or lifeless or a review or discussion that seems unforgiving, supercilious, or simply muddled, I still am interested in how these voices contribute to the overall conversation about contemporary poetry.
However, it seems to me that something is missing in Poetry. Recently I found myself scribbling in the margin somewhere near the back of the April issue, "They're all so worried." As an academic philosopher, I do appreciate the concerns that poets today have about the place of poetry in our culture; about its alliance with, if not dependency upon, the university; and about the need to sustain critical dialogue about the state of the art. Indeed, these concerns about poetry often parallel academics' concerns about the state of philosophy in a culture that has a greatly diminished interest in literary arts or the humanities generally.
But what is missing from the pages of Poetry is what brings readers to poetry in the first place. I'd like to see a regular feature in which a writer discusses a poem that she or he loves (printed alongside that poem), sharing as personal or as technical an appreciation of the poem as desired. I'd like to see, in addition to all the troubled, critical, worried discussion about the state of the art, some direct, untroubled, joyful discussion of the art. The goal of such discussion would not be to generate an authoritative reading of the poem, but rather to offer one writer's enthusiasm for it, which may enhance even a devoted reader's appreciation and understanding. The joy of sharing a loved poem is akin to what one sometimes experiences when one has an exciting new friend or loverone gushes about the new friend to one's old friends and can't wait to introduce them. I'd like to see some gushing in Poetry.