October’s edition of ‘Poetry’ challenges the expectations of form

While the Poetry Foundation’s September issue focuses on sentimentality, changing seasons and refinement, the October issue is not concerned with thematics. Instead, the foundation’s 10th issue of the year celebrates different forms of writing, including various types of poetry and two essay collections. 

“Not Too Hard to Master” are essays by the esteemed recipient of the 2023 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Kimiko Hahn, regarding poetic form. The “Hard Feelings” collection recounts the details of poets’ complicated emotions, featuring Richard Siken, Kate Durbin and Kiki Petrosino. 

It requires patience and steadiness to appreciate all the bursting emotions within the featured poems, but inspiration will certainly be found. 

With a rich history in publication, editor Adrian Matejka created an issue highlighting individual poets, styles and poetic movements not previously recognized in the foundation’s history. In his editor’s note, Matejka reflected upon the selection of works, stating they reflect not only his preferences but the readers, “Because ‘Poetry’ isn’t my magazine; it’s our magazine. And because of that, the pages need to simultaneously reflect the past, present, and future of our art.” 

Matejka further explained how, over time, the publication has evolved their editorial methods to promote greater fairness and revised their approach to the curation process for a more equitable outcome, introducing new forms of poetic discussions.

The first words of the issue are those of Gabriel Ramirez, from his poem “Abuelo,”  “I couldn’t be who I am / today if it wasn’t for you / being dead.”  

“Abuelo” begins an emotionally poignant issue with selections from 16 modern poets. Some include CooXooEii Black, Stacie Cassarino and Oliver Baez Bendorf. 

Included among the modern poets is the great Paul Celan, whose historically significant poem “Todesfuge” appears in its original language, German. A translation in English by Dean Rader follows, with an excerpt from Rader titled “On ‘Todesfuge’.”

Rader wrote, “As a poet, it is important to me to honor Celan’s commitment to the poem’s music. In my mind, the horror of the content of Celan’s poem is made more horrific through the juxtaposition of the poem’s sonic strangeness. My job is to help facilitate that experience for readers in English of this masterful poem.” 

The issue continues with an extensive featuring of Hahn, with commentary provided by Nicole Sealey in, “The Breadth of Our Existence: On Kimiko Hahn.” A few of Hahn’s award winning poems include,  “A Revelation with Yeats,” “Villanelle with a Line Borrowed from Bishop” and “Not Nothing Again.” 

Sealey provides those flipping through the issue a breach into Hahn’s writing courses by stating “To great effect, Hahn’s poetry welcomes miscellany and disorder. It is said that a clean house is a sign of a wasted life and mess a sign of a life well-lived. Among her poetry students, Kimiko Hahn has been known to advise: ‘Make a mess.’ She encourages them to get their hands dirty, to jump into (not over) puddles, to play with their food.”

A thorough reading of the October issue of “Poetry” will give readers insight on how great poet’s utilize and abandon the conventions of form. Matejka achieved his goal of showcasing diverse poems and poets while reflecting on the history of the art. It requires patience and steadiness to appreciate all the bursting emotions within the featured poems, but inspiration will certainly be found. 

Matejka’s editor’s note as well as every poem and essay for this month is available on The Poetry Foundation website. Some poems, such as Jenny Browne’s “I Am Trying to Love the Whole World” and Tianna Bratcher’s “Water of the womb”  feature an audio recording. 




Featured photo courtesy of Vincenzo Malagoli, Pexels