Introduction

By Rathmann, Andrew; Johnston, Devin | Chicago Review, Fall 1997 | Go to article overview

Introduction


Rathmann, Andrew, Johnston, Devin, Chicago Review


This special issue of Chicago Review is meant to reflect some of the range of new writing on contemporary English-language poetry and poetics. As editors of this issue, it is our hope that the collected essays will prove thought-provoking not only to specialist students of the field, but to knowledgeable non-academic readers as well. Our intention was both to document what is being said now about poetry, and actively to assist in circulating those ideas, in the hope of supporting a more inclusive, better-informed, and less tribal discussion of contemporary poetry in the future. Historically, it has often been the case that the most original and enduring works have first emerged from small, intense, and even self-marginalized artistic circles and communities; indeed, there may be something about the imagination that thrives on such socially secluded environments. But it seems unclear to us why the more social activity of criticism, evaluation, and explication would not benefit from the widest possible range of poetic literacy and shared reference. To expand that discussion has been our motive (not always realized) over the past two years of editing Chicago Review; this issue is meant to condense those efforts within a single context, and ideally to stimulate a response from our readers.

To gather these materials, we simply asked various poets and critics to make what they could of the contemporary scene; we didn't care so much whether the responses were "representative," so long as they were interesting. While we did suggest possible topics, such as poetry and its institutions, formal experiment, spirituality, and audience, most of the contributors have followed their own instincts. While there is no point in attempting to generalize from a selection which might easily have turned on different themes and issues, we were interested to note one or two divergences from our expectations. …

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