Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Sharon Bryan
Dear Editor,

Albert Goldbarth’s Budget Travel through Space and Time is his best book so far—which is saying a good deal, since Goldbarth has published more than twenty books of poetry, four collections of essays, and a novel. So it was dismaying to see this major achievement dismissed in your pages by a callow reviewer who obviously hadn’t even read the book all the way through, let alone closely and carefully.

It isn’t true, as your reviewer says, that “There can’t be any meaning in the connections the poems draw when it’s practically a premise that connections can be drawn between anything.” Beyond the sloppy grammar (between anything?), the connections Goldbarth makes are surprising, but never random or arbitrary. Rather, they operate with laser-like precision to illuminate and connect apparently disparate elements—a metaphorical vision found at the heart of all great poetry.

Your reviewer is also far off the mark when he says that “Gold-barth’s work amounts to a poetry of lists.” No. Goldbarth’s work could more accurately be described as extended meditations on the broad topic of what it is to be human, and within that what it is to love, what a human life can—and cannot—mean, the infinite shadings of human thought and emotion. One of the great strengths of the poems is that these questions are always grounded in particulars—the specifics that the reviewer mistakes for lists.

These poems are brilliant, moving, consoling. It’s ironic that your reviewer says that Goldbarth writes in part for “our adolescent delectation,” when the reviewer is the one with an adolescent sensibility—no attention span, no ability to see beyond the surface, no concept of history—and Goldbarth the wise, funny, generous grown-up.

Port Townsend, Washington

Originally Published: October 30, 2005

Poetry is looking for thought-provoking responses to work published in the magazine, as well as letters that raise new questions about the state of contemporary poetry. To send us your letter, please fill out all the fields below.

If we choose to use your letter, we will notify you by phone. If you have not heard from us within two weeks of sending your letter, you may assume we will not be using it. All letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may appear online, in print, or both.

Please do NOT send poetry submissions to this account. See Submission Guidelines for further information and policies regarding poetry submissions.


* All fields are required


This prose originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2005
 Sharon  Bryan


Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sharon Bryan earned a BA in philosophy from the University of Utah, an MA in anthropology from Cornell University, and an MFA from the University of Iowa. She is the author of the poetry collections Salt Air (1983), Objects of Affection (1987), Flying Blind (1996), and Sharp Stars (2009), which won the Isabella Stewart Gardner Poetry Award.
Bryan’s work as an editor includes Where We Stand: Women . . .

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.