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Straight to the Source

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

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 poetryfoundation.org. 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 editors@poetrymagazine.org.

 

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

Prose from Poetry Magazine

Straight to the Source

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

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