All poets are overlooked, but perhaps none so consistently as the poet who doubles as a magazine or book editor. People in the same line of endeavor have a natural tendency to compete. The editor resists this impulse and works on behalf of other writers. This is good for the soul, even though an unforunate consequence is that the editor's peers may approach him or her almost solely in relation to their own wants, needs, and aspirations.
Paul Hoover, co-editor of New American Writing for three decades, is a prime example of the poet who can see beyond his immediate self-interest and figure out a useful way to serve the art itself. I am delighted that a wonderful poem by Hoover -- "God's Promises," published in Poetry in 2010 -- was chosen by guest editor Kevin Young for the 2011 edition of Best American Poetry, now just weeks away. David Baker, poetry editor of the Kenyon Review, springs to mind as another example of the breed. You'll find compelling work by Baker ("Outside") in a recent issue of Southern Review.
That venerable magazine out of LSU was edited by the late Jeanne Leiby, who died in an automobile accident on April 19 this year. The magazine's staff honors Leiby in the Summer 2011 issue, which has impressive poems by Jen McClanaghan, Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis, Peter Marcus, and Rebecca Hazelton -- courtesy of poetry editor Jessica Faust-Spitzfaden. Of Jeanne Leiby (1964-2011), we learn that it pleased her to call writers with the news that their work had been accepted for the magazine. "Here's why I call," she explained. "I spend a lot of my life rejecting things -- that's the reality of my job. When I find something that excites me so much I want to put it in print, I'm happy, I'm thrilled. . . .The world of writing and editing is solitary enough. I want to know the writer behind the work."
Elizabeth Powell belongs in this company of exemplary editors. I admire the taste in poetry on display in Green Mountains Review, where Powell is the poetry editor, and I want to call attention to her own poems and prose poems, such as "Jiffy Lube, Byway 17, North Medford, IL," which was posted last month by Zocalo Public Square. Here is an excerpt. -- DL
Knocked up at twenty, after two previous abortions, she hadn’t wanted to test her luck with a Lord she wasn’t totally sure didn’t exist. She had left her local progressive radio station to marry the teaching assistant from her mass communications class. He was the one who had knocked her up. Now, twelve years later, she knew there was indeed a God and his main purpose was to torture her. She knew that seemed self-important to think, but her husband was balding, now overweight, still sleeping with his students. He did it the way many women eat chocolate, compulsively, secretly, with great melt-in-the-mouth relish. He was a connoisseur of Bambis: Young, long legged fawns with blonde hair. What she had been, and if truth be told, still was.