Multitudes crowd new poetry forum

by Staff

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“And so she heard nothing in those last moments but a boy,

A neighbor, practicing badly & without talent, over & over,

The same two notes blown through a trumpet, & then she

Realized that her life would be drowned out by these two notes,

That she was this girl listening to them ?

That she was with a window open & a book open on her lap,

The pages of it not yet flecked by blood as they would be.”

? Larry Levis, “The Cook Grew Lost in His Village, the Village in the Endless Shuffling of Their Cards”

If you want to assure your immortality, you could always endow a charity or fund a museum wing. If you were Edwin Watkins, the fruits of your bequest might themselves be immortal. Watkins’ estate is funding Poetry International, the new literary journal recently inaugurated by the San Diego State University Press.

As editor Fred Moramarco recounts, the fond memories of the wealthy alumnus led to a posthumous payoff for the inaugural issue.

“Watkins attended SDSU in the ’30s and had been involved in editing a poetry magazine,” Moramarco said. “He remembered it as one of the happiest times of his life. He wanted to sort of resurrect that and left

us this bequest for the express purpose of putting out a poetry journal.”

Moramarco has never shied from the task of bringing literature to the public. A longtime professor of American literature at SDSU, he’s also the former editor of Western Humanities Review and has edited two anthologies of American poetry, “Men of Our Time” and “Containing Multitudes.” The Watkins windfall helped to catalyze a venture that had been in his heart for awhile.

“This is something I get a lot of pleasure out of,” he said. “I had the idea of doing a poetry magazine for a long time, but this just sort of got dropped in my lap.”

Moramarco has attempted to tie the project into the already established Fiction International and to SDSU’s creative writing program. Graduate students can earn academic credit and valuable editing experience by working on Moramarco’s staff as assistants.

“The English department has put out Fiction International for many years, and since we have an MFA program in Creative Writing that involves both fiction and poetry tracks,” he said, “we thought it would be a good idea for the poetry magazine to do something parallel.

“Now we have a number of excellent MFA students involved in the magazine.”

A testament to Moramarco’s aesthetic vision, the first issue embodies Walt Whitman’s declaration that poetry should contain multitudes. Some of today’s finest poets grace its pages: Gary Soto, Marge Piercy, Charles Simic and Peter Cooley.

“We decided that a journal that would be publishing regularly needs to include work beyond just American poetry, so we’re soliciting poems from all over the world, including translations from as many countries as we can gather. For example, in the next issue I’m putting together a section on new Russian poets.”

The magazine features some strange bedfellows: Poetry from local talents like Suzanne Luzzaro sit beside fresh translations of works by Michelangelo. The inaugural issue’s preponderance of free verse makes it a logical companion to “Rebel Angels,” the recent neo-formalist anthology that gets a review in Poetry International’s back pages.

Such book reviews make up a full third of the volume, along with a remarkable centerpiece showcasing the late Larry Levis, commemorated in a previously unpublished poem and an equally poetic critique by colleague Christopher Buckley.

“I’m trying to have an eclectic mix ? one that really represents a wide range of poetry as it’s being written today,” Moramarco said.

“It should also bring in poems that would be accessible, readable, not esoteric or written for one particular clique. One of the things wrong with contemporary poetry is that it’s limited to university circles. Poetry is a reflection of life experience, and we need more written by people from all works of life, not just university professors.”

For information and subscriptions, check out Poetry International at its Web site: rohan@sdsu.edu/dept/press/poetry.html

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