Of the Festivity

Of the Festivity

Of the Festivity

Of the Festivity

Excerpt

Since this is the last year in which I shall be editing the Yale Series of Younger Poets, I hope Mr. Dickey will forgive me for taking this foreword to his book as an opportunity to make a few valedictory observations.

Who should edit a series of this kind? The answer is easy. He should be someone with such a passionate desire to discover new talent that he spends his days reading every Little Magazine, every pamphlet published by tiny presses which he can lay his hands on; he should be gifted with an infallible nose for detecting the difference between the genuine and the spurious novelty; and he should be without the slightest desire to write a line of poetry himself.

A practicing poet is never a perfect editor: if he is young, he will be intolerant of any kinds of poetry other than the kind he is trying to write himself; if he is middle aged, the greater tolerance of his judgment is offset by the decline of his interest in contemporary poetry. The books which interest him most are unlikely to be books of poetry, and when he does read poems for pleasure, they are likely to be of a date and style as far removed from the contemporary as possible. As an editor, therefore, however conscientious he may try to be in appraising the manuscripts submitted to him, he will not and cannot, as an ideal editor should, go on the hunt for more and better manuscripts because he does not know where to look. Since, alas, the ideal editor does not exist, a practicing poet over the age of thirty-five is perhaps the best second-best, but he should be changed fairly frequently.

Whatever his virtues or defects, any editor of the Yale Series of Younger Poets will face problems which are not of his making and which he is powerless to solve.

He can only select the best manuscript from those submitted to him, yet he knows that there are probably a number of poets around without a published book whose work may well be better.

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