In his office, Plumly told me I was too talented to throw myself into this crazy world of poets and critics at the age of twenty-two. “What are you doing here? You’re so young. Come back when you’re thirty and divorced like everyone else.”
Saturday, January 14, 2012
So we’ve known Steve a long time, and we were thrilled to be able to publish his poem “Bargain” in our latest print issue. We’ve always been a little curious, though, exactly what was happening in that head of his (insert smiley face here). So we asked him to annotate “Bargain” for us, and as you can read below by mousing over the underlines, what’s happening in Steve’s head is interesting — dark, confessional, frank, funny, opinionated with regard to classic rock icons — pretty much, to be honest, exactly what we thought it was like in there.
Some people don’t like rankings, and I can sympathize with their view. But I maintain that the Pushcart Prize is a reasonable proxy for quality, and I think many writers hope to place their work in the best possible magazine. If I were a poet, I’d want to see my work in Poetry, the clear “winner” in this ranking. But I also acknowledge that the Pushcart Press has been slow to recognize the work that is appearing in online magazines, and these magazines, some of which are excellent, are under-represented on the list. Writers should keep this in mind.
I am a devotee of William Blake, Frederick Nietzsche, Carl Jung, and Jim Morrison. Each maintained that the highest state of self-actualization is to be achieved by merging internal opposites into a dynamic state of awareness transcendent of these alleged dualities. Blake called it "the marriage of heaven and hell." Nietzsche contemplated a state "beyond good and evil." Carl Jung simply called it "the third thing," and Jim Morrison called it "break[ing] on through to the other side." Creative people are walking paradoxes; both shrewd and naïve, libidinous yet prudish, and so on. I believe that this paradox forms the basis of the creative tension so essential to artistic triumph—the friction of opposites setting fire to that "third thing," which goes by yet another name: the Sublime.
It’s true that the mid-20th century was a heyday of sorts for American poetry. Poets were published and reviewed in daily newspapers and general-interest magazines, and their book releases were significant events. The poetry scene that most people knew was made up of a few highly celebrated poets (with notable exceptions, usually white and male) writing a few kinds of poetry (“the raw and the cooked,” as Robert Lowell famously described it).