I’ve given up being a gambling man, but if I were to become one again, I would bet when future scholars write the history of this moment in American letters, they will describe a period of poetic efflorescence unlike any that preceded it. Everywhere I turn these days, I read beautiful poems. Poems that alternately leave me feeling gutted or happy to be human and alive.
In this issue Robbie Gamble and I, along with our readers, tried to capture in miniature the writing that makes this poetic age so strong. The poems here demonstrate both the variety of forms and the intensity of personal emotion that I find characteristic to the contemporary flowering of poetry. The poems here also wrestle with emotional concerns relevant to any age of poetry. In “A Type of Crying,” Marcus Jackson vividly describes the existential struggle with human pain:
You must hold inside a muscular sorrow
and a sense of endurance for torture
bequeathed to you by your shattered mother.
Kamilah Aisha Moon gives voice, in “Windows,” to the antipodal emotion, the pure joy this life can bring to us:
& you’ll let loose strong giggles
you came into the world with
& wipe your eyes, & then wipe them again
so you can stare into a perfect blue
blessed by raining, curled leaves.
While the poems in this issue engage with emotions that might resonate across time, they are firmly rooted in the here and now, in the particular difficulties and triumphs of being human today. In “The Complication of Multiple Lives,” Jennifer Boyden exquisitely renders how a parent stands isolated both from her child— “I am blue, / so I tell my daughter it’s like a falling barn. / I mean life but she thinks I mean sex”—and from a parent of her own: “My father scratches at the window and dies. / We go on living. I love everything / disastrously.”
While personal experience is important to these poems, many of the poets collected here contend, both head-on and sidelong, with our fraught political moment. In the face of growing awareness of the injustice and inequality that plague American society on multiple fronts, these poets refuse to remain silent. The moral vision of these poems on subjects such as the objectification of women, the American age of mass incarceration, the privileges of whiteness, and the toll that political uncertainty takes on our personal lives serve as a call to action.
Thank you for taking the time to read and engage with these poems. They are part of the dynamism of today’s poetry landscape, and I am beyond excited to share them with you.
Iain Haley Pollock