Literary magazines seem to be the most genuinely collaborative effort in
literaturetheir goal being to publish an issue of quality with little time or
budget. Unlike other forums for writing, the literary/poetry magazine is free from the
commercial constraints that seem to plague mainstream fiction. Whether or not this is a
such a blessing is something the reader must decide.
Even the best books of poetry
(whatever they are) make little in the way of commerce, and are sparingly promoted by big
publishing houses. In the great haste to satiate the paperbacked, grocery-store-checkout
public, publishing houses have all but forgotten the more erudite reader. The end result
is that books of poetry are generally ignored by the masses.
Although publishers have done well with Milan Kundera, Junot Diaz, Frank McCourt,
Stephen Dobyns and Ted Hughes in recent times, very few poets, it seems, have any real
selling power in the mainstream. Perhaps W.S. Merwin, Maya Angelou, Rita Dove, Hughes,
Pinsky, Creeley, Simic, and the late Ginsberg make up just a few poets who seem to have
vast followings. Our good fortune here is that devoid of any true commercial profit,
poetry is also less plagued by the Jewel's of the world peddling their books. Call it a
tradeoff: aesthetics over mass appeal.
The state of poetry today is goodnot great. However, what can be assured is that
poetry controls its own aesthetic destiny. It will be around as long as thought and words
are around. It will outlive television and the Internet, and (as a very decent poet puts
it) "will continue as constellations continue."