Friday, January 20, 2012

Poetry Celebrates 100 Years


CHICAGO — Poetry magazine, published by the Poetry Foundation, celebrates its centennial in 2012. Founded in Chicago in October 1912 by editor Harriet Monroe, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. As the magazine turns 100, it holds fast to the principles that guided it from the beginning: to discover new voices, present new work by internationally recognized poets, and enliven discussion about and readership for contemporary poetry.

“Only a handful of literary magazines are still publishing after 100 years; a poetry magazine that reaches that milestone is a rarity indeed,” said Poetry Foundation president John Barr. “Poetry remains, as T.S. Eliot wrote in 1954, ‘an American Institution.’”

Poetry established its reputation early and published the first important poems of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Sylvia Plath, Gwendolyn Brooks, and other now-classic authors. In recent years, more than a third of the poems published in each issue are submitted by writers who have never before appeared in Poetry’s pages. By showcasing both established and emerging poets alongside provocative reviews, essays, and criticism, Poetry sparks conversation and brings new readers to the art form.

“The magazine today is a testament to those who have come before,” said Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman. “Put together Harriet Monroe—an intrepid woman who wanted a magazine equal to the art and architecture she saw everywhere around her in turn-of-the-century Chicago; 90 years of persistence and poverty; a dozen editors feeding and herding poets like feral cats; and a $200 million windfall in 2002 from the reclusive Ruth Lilly, and you get a magazine unlike any other.” (More on the history of the magazine is available as a part of an electronic press kit available at www.poetryfoundation.org/100years.)

No one would be more astonished by Poetry’s centennial than Monroe herself, whose “little magazine” often teetered on the brink of bankruptcy; indeed, at the time of her death during the Great Depression, she was deeply skeptical about the magazine’s survival. But the magazine did more than endure—in recent years Poetry has enjoyed record circulation and won prestigious awards, including  two National Magazine Awards in 2011.