Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Silvine Marbury Farnell

Dear Editor,

I can’t help suspecting that you published Philip Metres’s letter [January 2013] accusing Clive James of thinking that “poems exist only for the page” not only because you enjoyed the way Metres champions memorization, but also because you hoped to get many letters defending James from that accusation. Certainly I can’t resist getting in on the fun.

I admire James precisely because he so obviously loves bringing alive the words of a good poem in his body. “That it can be got by heart is one of the ways we tend to define a poem,” he says [“A Stretch of Verse,” November 2012]. And later: “Ungaretti said that the touchstone of poetry was the hammered phrase within the singable scheme.”

I was just told yesterday, again, that poems are really puzzles that you have to decipher. But as soon as James asks himself what a line by Auden means (“The earth turns over, our side feels the cold”), he dismisses the question: “Better for the reader to just enjoy the feeling of disorientation — or rather, of being oriented toward everywhere, a sliding universality.” And if that way of putting it doesn’t send you back to the poem    ...

Originally Published: March 1, 2013

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 March 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2013

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.