Letter from the Editor
(an introduction to the poets and another small iteration of the mission here)
We have in this issue, something of an embarrassment of riches, as the old expression goes. There is an almost ridiculous number of poems by a ridiculous number of poets (by TCR issue standards). This issue has been growing in my head for a number of years, since before I was editor and had the ability to single out, promote or showcase these poets, and so the publication of this issue finally proves cathartic. Even so, along with this catharsis and ‘riches,’ comes the grief and memory over the lack of inclusion of so many other no less worthy voices absent for one reason or another.
After I took over as editor, TCR initiated a few changes, one of those being to attempt to publish more poems by a given poet. Partly we do this because the poets we like and want to share with you have submitted more than one good piece to us, and partly we do this in order to introduce to you not only a poem, but the poet. One gets a fuller more complete picture of a poet from several rather than just a single poem. On display here in issue #10 we have free and formal verse, senryu and haibun, a prose poem, confessional and elegaic lyrics, metaphysical work that is Christian or shamanistic, and something that might be a kind of surrealism with a broadly unclassifiable but certainly spiritual overtone.
Part of the reason there are so many poets and poems in this issue is because, I openly confess, I know many of them and have been reading their work online for years. In some cases we have exchanged comments on each other’s work as critics, and worked together in a formal volunteer capacity online together (as with Carol Lynn, Ed, Jan, Margot and Zeke). In the case of Dustin, we’ve not only met but this poet has worked for me, performing a stint as a barista and roastmaster. In the case of Dan, Mike, Eric and Paul, we are online acquaintances only who’ve never interacted enough to call each other friends, and before this issue I knew them only by their screennames; octogenarian, danimik, eric, and lonelyas.
For Rhonda and Harvey, two fine poets who submitted their work in the usual way, they may feel, should they read this, that they have stepped into a party to which they weren’t invited, like unwitting wedding crashers. Far from it, their work, blindly submitted and quite welcome, stood out from the crowd as having no prior relationship with the editor or editorial board to recommend them or their poems and won our enthusiasm and regard. Their work speaks for itself, uniquely and passionately.
Of the two poets with the most work on display, who by conventional standards would be considered therefore the featured poets, are Art Durkee and Eli Holley. I have never met Art, though we’ve talked on the phone a time or two, but we have had a longstanding friendship, sometimes rocky, but always with mutual respect and admiration for each other and our aims in poetry. Eli is a different story, however, and I think his case is illustrative if not representative of many online poets blogging or workshopping today, even with as much native talent and brilliance as he has. From the day he first started posting his work online for comment and workshop, it was clear that he wasn’t taking his cues from any of the other poets posting at the time. Almost self-destructively passionate his comments were often cryptic and terse, and usually playful, but guarded. He would only open up after trust had been established, and between the two of us, that took years. I would copy his work to my hard-drive knowing that online work never lasts, and often in his work he was doing things and making choices I didn’t always follow or completely understand, but still felt right—the choices resonated, reverberated. I wanted to study and learn from it. Some of his idiosyncratic technique and lines of experimentation I found exciting and new, but to him I think, just natural—not something most of us would try when we are self-consciously attempting to be innovative or imitative, or from some accept[ed][able] logic. His logic seemed individual and innate, authentically born out of his circumstances and peculiar vision of the world—not some game or artificial stance drummed up by gimmick or writerly attempts at novelty, I don’t think. His novelty is genuine and personal and most oftentimes he tried things that failed. Poets who are truly experimental try things that fail most of the time and his work was no exception. What we’re showcasing here are (according to the prejudices of this editor) some of his successes. I’m not discounting the fact that others might see success in what I may regard his failures or failure in what I regard successes. Bias (and taste) is impossible in such matters.
I’d like to tell an anecdote about our initial meeting a few years ago between Eli and myself, which I think illustrates as parable a perfect backdrop for why we feel publishing these poets in this issue is important and why I, in particular, find their work precious; this apart from the poems themselves which have their own qualities and stand on their own as artifacts in the New Criticism fashion, apart from authorial biography, intent and context. Eli was living in a smallish town outside Olympia, Washington, and I was delivering freight to Dollar Tree stores regionally in a tractor/trailer rig. Finally, I’d been dispatched to deliver in his town so I called him up to meet for lunch. A comedy of errors ensued in which, as improbable as this seemed to me, there turned out to be more than one Dollar Tree outlet in his town and his house was near the one that was a mile or two from where I was delivering, so he had walked up to a Schneider truck that was in the process of making a delivery coincidental with mine near his house, calling “Dave….Dave?” to the driver up in the trailer throwing freight and being answered with a blank or cold stare, no doubt thinking him lost and on crack or nuts. Meanwhile, we were thinking each other crazy, because on the phone we were both swearing to each other that we were waiting at the Dollar Tree and describing our different surroundings with the other nowhere in sight. After we realized our error (two stores in this little town!) I drove over to the other store and Eli agreed to wait and meet me—the challenge with every new delivery in a large truck is to first find the store and then discover how to get to the delivery access point, which is predictable only in how it is counter-intuitive and difficult nearly every time. I circled the store looking for access and found myself on a crazy, tiny anomaly of poorly planned residential street that turned out to be a blind and dead-end ‘alley’ with low hanging power and telephone wires and tiny lawns I was in danger of leaving tracks on attempting to maneuver to gain access through an opening to the back of the strip mall that proved too small for my 75 foot long truck. As I was slowly backing out, a man approached, whom I was sure would be a property owner demanding insurance and company information from me about real or perceived damages to his property. This man was smiling–it was Eli—apparently I had driven right to his front door—he had waited in front of the store and then given up on me and was on his way home. We bought some Mexican food from a mobile lunch truck, smoked cigarettes, and talked about life and poetics. He had told me that his composition method was to write lines or poems on scraps of paper which he kept in his pocket terribly disorganized. I brought this up and sure enough, he pulled out a small wad of torn scrap pieces of paper with lines scribbled on them. I started to tell him, “Dude! You need to keep a notebook or notepad and files for poems.” But as I said this I realized in a moment of insight, perhaps because of the look on his face, that he couldn’t do this, that if he were to do this it would short circuit his composition, that if he were to get a notebook it would remain blank. His method of composition was what it was out of necessity—if he were to do anything else it would be to take his writing too seriously. He confirmed this when he replied, “I’ve tried keeping a notebook like you’ve said—it just doesn’t work for me.”
Some of the poets in this issue rarely if ever submit their work to conventional literary or poetry journals, or may choose to blog or workshop instead, either because they’ve tried conventional publication and given up, or because the process of writing is all that matters to them, or maybe they are frustrated or think prehistoric the current machinations of submitting work to a journal to have it rejected or accepted after months of waiting, or perhaps it’s just something they never bothered to learn how to do. Perhaps they question how or why it would matter? Some revise their work endlessly and to them the writing and revising is an end in itself and they take the objective of an online workshop seriously, while others almost never revise their work beyond a 1st or 2nd draft and might even compose in the text box of the site itself. Even though they post in online poetry workshops under the pretense of revising toward publication, they post not for critical comment but in reality for reader response: either to be heard and read in lieu of publication, or out of curiosity to discover what another mind makes and mirrors back of their shared poetic experience.
“Soon I’ll find them gone, dispersed into everything;
Your daughter’s hair. My laughter.
A true moment, perhaps, of understanding
and acceptance of the temporal, even if temporal.
Our love and fear of the possible.
from Eli Holley’s poem, ‘A true moment’
The reason we regard these poems as needing to be read by you and of particular value is a coin with two faces—on one side is the quality and sophistication of the voices on display. On the other side is the rarity and ephemerality of these artifacts. Economic law dictates that the value of a thing is determined by its supply and demand. This is how we read the ratio: (scarce/high). Supposedly material on the internet has the potential to remain forever. What I’ve discovered is that poems on the internet do not stay long. Databases are trimmed, journals too quickly go defunct, Google updates its listings every two weeks and things appear and other things drop off; the enormity and influx of new information buries the old. Something may remain virtually but may not always stay found or searchable. We hope you enjoy this selection of quality work—read it while it lasts. It’s nothing short of miraculous it found its way here to your eyes.