Issue 107 |
Winter 2008-09



"Here's why I write. Because Poetry begins there where death had not the final word."

—Odysseus Elytis


I sent out a call to some poets: friends, acquaintances, and some only known to me by their poems. Inevitably I forgot some, and also I am ignorant of many; forgive me. I asked for submissions for Ploughshares from poets with one book or less, a suggestion from my good friend Kaveh Bassiri. (Also, only from poets who didn't know / hadn't worked with me.) By and by, I had many boxes full of poems. I liked Kaveh's suggestion because I meet so many poets at the beginning of publication who are finding it hard to break into the Industry.

I know editing this issue's poetry was something I thought I should do: I had no idea of the joys it would bring. The country, in one of its deeper dark moments, is full of good poets. They could have filled many issues of Ploughshares.

Sometimes I felt like Randall Jarrell, holding his head and groaning in his office as he wrote his introduction to Eleanor Ross Taylor's first manuscript, A Wilderness of Ladies: "She's so much better than I am!"

What I was looking for was the chill shiver of poetry. I was biting a coin to see if it was real.

I took comfort from an editor friend who said, "Give yourself the space to fail—to miss something—have the faith that those writers will come through somewhere." I gave myself that space both in my "half" and in the manuscripts that came in to Ploughshares in the ordinary way.

Odysseus Elytis goes on to say that writing poetry " the end of one life and the commencement of another the same as the first, except it goes very deep, to the extremest point that the soul can track, to the frontiers of the contraries where Helios and Hades touch. The endless course toward physical light which is the Word, and the Uncreated light which is God. For this I write. Because it fascinates me to obey him I know not, who is my entire self, not a half-self that goes up and down the streets and 'is registered in the records for males of Town Hall.'"

I thank the risk-taking, ardent poets who have written what is here. Death has not the final word.