Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Why Does The Walrus Bother Publishing Poems?

Poetry Editor Michael Lista attempts an answer in his preface to a free ebook of the magazine's best poems:
Although The Walrus is known first and foremost for its journalism, it is also, strictly by the numbers, the largest publisher of poetry in Canada. But what’s in it for the reader who looks to the magazine for news of Canada and its place in the world? I’m tempted here to quote William Carlos Williams in a zealous moment: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack // of what is found there.” What is found there is the direct line to another human being, the raw data of personality and sensibility articulated through the sort of aesthetic decisions that led Emerson to write, “Man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.” A key component of our education about the world, and our ability to live peacefully in it, is an intimacy with someone else’s linguistic decision making, our other half. Yet the poems collected here also constitute what Pound would call “news that stays news,” reports filed from the foreign bureaus of individual minds that, unlike pieces of journalism, will never grow old or obsolete, but will stay as true and urgent as the day they were conceived. Nonetheless, it is a gamble, and maybe an impolite one, to appeal to readers’ humanity with the aim of encouraging them to read poetry. To shore up the odds, during my tenure as poetry editor I have followed a rule (which grew out of Pound’s injunction that poetry be at least as well written as prose) that the poems we run in The Walrus be at least as interesting as everything else in the magazine. They should be at least as good as Richard Poplak writing about sports, or Ron Graham writing about Michael Ignatieff; as nuanced and complicated and concise as Rachel Giese writing about bullying; as beautiful as Brian Morgan’s art direction.

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