Poets on Poetry

Poets on Poetry

Poets on Poetry

Poets on Poetry

Excerpt

At the time that I agreed to serve as coordinator of these discussions, I was Consultant in Poetry to The Library of Congress. I was therefore at least in the right position, if not necessarily in possession of the right talents.

But selection is always an invidious business; it just is, and there is no way around it. For a week, I sat at my desk drawing up lists of poets. I never knew that there were so many of us. And, since perhaps no more than three turned down the invitation, it is plain that the responsibility for selection is altogether mine. I do not think that this requires much justification beyond the obvious observation that another editor might have made a substantially different set of choices and come up with a list of contributors as gifted as those presented here. But I should perhaps add that, though I did not go out of my way to avoid choosing friends and acquaintances just because they were friends and acquaintances, I did try to give fair representation to as many tendencies or "schools" as I thought I saw on the contemporary scene. This was a somewhat difficult matter, because a poet is first of all himself and only secondarily of interest as illustrating or representing this or that belief about the nature of the art. For the quality of my judgment in this matter I may not speak, though the beauty and force of the essays as they came in pleased me a great deal; but I did keep in mind the object of showing as well as possible the variety of work that is available.

With the idea of making some sort of center to the discussion, I proposed four questions to the contributors, explaining, however, that these were to be taken mainly as stimulus or even irritant and need not be regarded at all if the writer's interests took him along some other path. As I might have expected, few set themselves to answer directly; some paid the questions no heed whatever; whereas others, perhaps a majority, wrote essays in which the substance of the questions is obliquely reflected. For . . .

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