The Poetry Project

Editor’s Letter

John Rufo

Around late December 2019, I wrote the following to open the first Poetry Project Newsletter for 2020: “Peering around the corner into 2020’s rooms, the Poetry Project Newsletter steals into the new year with a host of reviews, interviews, and new poems. Now prepared by an editorial collective, this issue of the Newsletter assembles and re-assembles introductions that don’t make for quick visits, but invite readers to stay a while, to lounge, to argue, to fight together, to luxuriate in language, to reflect on lineage, to posit soundscapes as political arenas, and much more.”

We did, indeed, stay a while “and much more.” In a sense, nothing about the above has really changed. The editorial collective making up the Poetry Project Newsletter keeps practicing a devotion to the blessed insurgent occasions making up a social practice we tend to call poetry in our tending to it. Reviews, interviews, and new poems are available here. We are still constantly turning corners, seeing the rooms we may inhabit through poetry, language, thought, politics, action, and revelry. A virtual reading made the 2021 New Year’s Day Marathon stretch even further into strange surreality, generating through one day poetic connection among friends, family, strangers, in all their departures and arrivals.

In another sense, everything has altered so considerably that even the idea of re-reading past notes feels dizzy and wrong, and the motion of writing this new Editor’s Note is extremely difficult. 2021 brings 2020 along with it, as accumulated time and dragged memory churn into present offerings, so much as “discrete” units of time may be marked. There are no words up to the task of description but maybe description of violence alone isn’t the point and never was. The caress of care, at all scales and levels, remains and continues.

The subject of Death is present in this issue but, as is the Poetry Project Newsletter’s custom, it is always purposefully oblique and slant: seen from a not-so-straight angle contra to the typical flat fare given to us through the humming feed, the capitalist celebrity news anchor, or the fascist mouths who fight each other to call themselves Head of State, Head of Death. LA Warman notes in this issue that “Destruction of what bell hooks names as imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy is not easy.” This year was not easy, next year won’t be easy either: that as much we know. The fires of crises still burn.

Zoë Bodzas, in visiting Mary Ruefle’s new work, tells us: “mortality is just another guest.” Morgan Vo writes of John Godfrey’s collection: “Yet even at its most elegiac, the verve of A Torch is never despair.” There is never despair in the multiple remembrances for this issue. Sam Boatner, imogen xtian smith, and Conrad Tao provide the layers of sensory memory that encapsulate some of what it meant to be in the sounded presence of artist SOPHIE. John Godfrey joins us with a memoriam for Dick Gallup, reflecting that “By the fall of 1969 I was in the East Village for good (forever)… during those times I got to know Dick and, moreover, listen to him and his longtime co-conspirators discuss and debate many things – sometimes even writing.” Ira Clayton Eshleman’s time in the village is memorialized by Robert Kelly, featuring, additionally, time spent upstate in Howe Caverns. From the cave to the earth to the sky, Nicodemus Nicoludis moves us into considering recent continuities and changes in ecopoetry. Space is felt through bodily knowledge, and Saretta Morgan extends impressions of Benjamin Krusling’s GLARING, which “presents a poetics of radical disregard for inherited hierarchies of space and other orders,” briefly mentioning their correspondence. We love to talk: sometimes it’s all we have to share. I got together, virtually, with my old professor Jules Gibbs to talk about her book snakes & babies. Stacy Szymaszek talked places and stealing time with Brenda Coultas. And, finally, Stephen Ira refuses to tell us the ending of Jackie Ess’ newest Darryl, but promises us that it’s “unmissable.”

So here I am, hands on the keyboard, patiently attending to the knowledge I know that I know even if wake-up calls are needed: that music and poetry and practice can’t be swept away by any undertow or current of widespread state-sanctioned brutality. The call of poetry is on the line for you, it is not strained, although it stays and plays strange and fills itself up with unmappable structures. This issue hopes to go forth with that architecture, a building on-the-move, planning for such schemes no one can dream up solo, maybe “for good (forever).”

#264 — Spring 2021