Sunday Jul 14

hoppenthaler In a recent interview, Cornel West said, “I like to be multi-contextual, which is much more important than being multicultural.”   I’ve been mulling that statement over in an attempt to consider it in terms of poetry and how it is assembled, transmitted, and consumed via the editorial vision of the editors of journals and anthologies.    Context has to do with setting, the circumstances in which language occurs; to remove the language (the poem, in this case) from the setting in which it occurs is to make it a different poem.  When we complain that a parcel of language has been taken “out of context,” we mean that its intended meaning—within a larger linguistic construction—has been altered or lost.  Sometimes this is inadvertent; other times it is maliciously intentional.  In the case of a poem, we might think of the possible ways it might be presented and then consumed, and how each may reveal new facets of a poem’s possible reverberations.  In a journal, a poem might precede or follow another poem, a poem that may or may not be the work of said poet.  Or it may precede or follow an image.  One’s understanding of the poem may or may not be altered by reading the other poems or by examining the image.  Later, that same poem may well be included in a collection of poetry by the author, and we might presume that the poet thought long and hard about the poem’s placement in the book’s arc.  A reader may read these poems in order, or a reader may not.  Perhaps a broadside of the  poem might be produced by a letter press artist, and this broadside might well be displayed on the wall of a poet lover’s home, next to family photos, other broadsides, or the glass-eyed head of a deer.  If the poet is lucky or famous, and if the poem is good, it may end up in an anthology or two.  The anthology will likely have a specific focus—persona poems, say, or poems by Asian-Americans.  Or one might hear the poet read the poem aloud at a public event or during a radio interview.  Where, how, when, and why the poem is placed into a context has much to do with how that poem is consumed and made sense of by a reader.  A poem reaches its maximum potential when it is allowed to exist in more than one context, and this means that a poem ought to be read and re-read in as many contexts as a poem’s quality may warrant.  The poems included in this first anniversary Congeries provide a multicultural experience, I believe but, more importantly, the poems have been provided a specific context in which to reveal themselves to readers.  In the coming months and years, many of these poems will be provided additional contexts in which to suggest, allude, or mean.  I wish that gift for all of these poems. But for now, here they are.  New poems from Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Dennis, young adult poems from Meg Kearney, remarkable new work from Quincy Troupe, a frank interview and palpably honest new poems by Keetje Kuipers, poems from Lewis Turco, whose books of poetic forms have been classroom staples for many years, and so much more. Welcome to year two.