Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

A Victorian modernist. Harriet Monroe (1860 - 1936) was like the kid who'd like to jump off the diving board, but doesn't want to swim in the deep end of the pool. A little older and more prim than the modernist poets, she nevertheless made it possible for many of them to become well-known.

Unable to find opportunities to publish her own work, Monroe decided to start her own magazine, and in 1912 began the granddaddy of poetry journals, Poetry. Monroe and her bold, new creation provided an outlet for poets such as Pound, Frost, Eliot, H.D., Sandburg and Williams. While Monroe had a taste for the delicate modern, she couldn't resist tinkering with the submissions she received, cleaning them up a bit, and it wasn't long before Pound and Eliot were taking their wares to a new journal, the Little Review. Still, Poetry brought a lot of great poets to light and continues on to this day as a distinguished publication.

Monroe's poetry? In structure and form it's from a previous generation, but it stays away from the cloying sentimentality that can be found in some work of the 19th century. So here is the publisher and editor as poet.

Back Home

Egypt, Jerusalem, Stamboul,
And Athens of the crystal hill;
Apollo of Olympia,
Tall as a tower and marble-still;

Italy shining in the sun,
And Slavia by her dented sea --
These have been mine since last I stood
Where now my own comes back to me.

I met the dark kings where they lay
Mummied and folded close in gold,
And listened in their tombs to hear
The bragging tale their sculptors told.

I climbed the crested Holy City
Where one man, speaking words of flame,
Burnt up the Roman power and left
A world emblazoned with his name.

And Greece, guarding her shattered stones,
Lifting white columns to the sky --
I saw her pledge her Parthenon
To prove beauty can never die.

Now from the crowded little lands,
Gun-weighted with their ancient hates,
I come, hearing a mighty voice
Calling her thunder-roll of states.

The prairies hear it, and the hills,
The huge lakes, the far-folding sea --
A radio call out of the air,
Enormous, insolent and free.

An who am I to question her
Where among skyscrapers she waits!
The nations I have trailed are here --
Hate dies in them within her gates.

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