Established by Hariet Monroe in 1912, Poetry:A Magazine of Verse heralded the emergence of American poetry. Although the art was thriving in England and France, the United States was still young and unsure of itself. In the stead of the American poet, Walt Whitman, Americans were faced the question of just what American modern poetry was like. Poetry subsequently became Chicago's version of The English Review; publishing both established and emerging poets, Monroe intially held what she called an "open door policy" when it came to submissions. She expresses this the second issue of Poetry, "The Open Door will be the policy of this magazine--may the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, of half-shut, against his ample genius"(November 1912 Vol.1 No.2 64). While the magazine indeed continued to publish new poets, the door through which they passed gained definition as the magazine matured along with the culture of American poetry. The commenary from Poetry's editors between 1912 and 1914, provides vivid examples of the dialoge among critics as to the nature of modern poetry, particularly modern poetry in the "New World."
Alice Corbin Henderson, a fellow editor of the magazine, wastes no time inciting the discussion of American poetic identity. In the second issue of Poetry, she addresses the fact that American poets such as Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman were not recognized by American critics until after they were discoverd by European and French critcs. She writes, "Must we always accept American genius in this round-about fashion? Have we not the perspective that we applaud mediocrity at home and look abroad for genius only to find that it is of American origin?"(December 1912 Vol.1 No.3 87). In her statement, Henderson condences the plight of the American poet. Beneath the shadow of Europe's rich history and fervent assertion of independent philosophies, The American poetic ideneity would have to assert itself among the authors present in their own country, to seek out those authors, and most importantly to build a body of critics--a culture of poetry--which could support such authors. Later in the volume, Jesse B. Rittenhouse discusses the emergence of a cotiere with such a purpose in mind. Rittenhouse explains, "The Poetry Society of America, organized in 1910 was a natural response, perhaps at the time unconsious, to the reawakened interest in poetry, now so widely apparant"(Feburary 1913 Vol.1 No.5 166). As the culture of American poetry emerged around societies such as this one and magazines like Monroe's, the need for a philosophy--a working manifesto--of what modern American poetry and the American poet looked and sounded like.
Swiftly following Henderson's earlier inquiry, Monroe published an editorial comment titled, "The New Beauty." In it, she seems to refute her earlier "open door policy" calling much of the poetic submissions the magazine recieved "pathetically ingenious in their intellectual attitude, [and their writers] as unaware of the twenth century as if they had spend these recent years in an Elizabethan manor house"(April 1913 Vol.2 No.1 22). Redifining her policy, she uses assertive language, not to define what the "new beauty" is but the way by which the poet might aim at acheving it. Monroe writes:
It is not a question of subject, nor yet of form, this
new beauty which must inspire every artist worthy of
the age he lives in. The poet is not a follower, but a
leader; he is a poet not because he can measure words
or express patly current ideas, but because the new
beauty is a vision in his eyes and a passion in his heart,
and because he must strain every sinew of his spirit to
reveal it to the world. (April 1913 Vol.2 No.1 22-25).
Monroe's editorial comment signals a distinct change not only in the nature of the magazine, but of it's content. By moving beyond her open door policy and instead providing creative directions for poets submitting work, Monroe takes on a mentoring role, much like Ezra Pound's, amid the modernist movement. It would not be far fetched to say suppose that Pound's later editorial presence influenced Monroe's vision of approaching American poetry and "the new beauty." Much in the way the American poetic identity needed a body of individuals to foster it, the body of critics needed a philosophy by which to guide their fellow writers. Each philosophy would be greatly determined by the nature of the culture from which it sprung, the politics of it's people and, in an increasingly globalized world, their country's role in global relations.
Global events such as World War I would become dominant factors in influencing the philosophy of these new writers. In a December 1914 issue of Poetry, 6 months into World War I, Harriet Monroe gives a unique Christmas address illustrating the undeniable influence of global events onto the magazine. She remarks in her Christmas address "Already we hear a new statement of values - even we who are sea-walled from the tumult... There will be a new statement of values in the arts" (December 1914 Vol.5 No.3 31-32) Clearly the influence of events directly pertaining to the American collective would have an insurmountable effect on the content of the magazine. As a mouth piece of the American poet with a large intelligentsia readership it would be a natural leap for the magazine to be more and more shaped by important social issues of the day.
Monroe also focuses her attention on issues not directly pertaining to the American collective such as the "Servia Epic." Located in the Balkans the "Servian Epic" contains cycles mainly focusing on war - most notable of which are pre-Kosovo, during Kosovo and post-Kosovo - all of which deal with issues an ocean away from American shores. Pre-dating World War I, Monroe's coverage of the "Servian Epic" illustrates an enduring interest in war and the poetry it produces. By taking the magazine in a direction always closely monitoring world events such as war, Monroe ensures that it is relevant not only because of the poetry but the content itself. She quotes Mme. Gruitch, an authority on the Serb issue, as saying "There was one thing which the Turk could not take away from the Serb - the heavenly gift of poetry" (March 1913 Vol. 1 No.6 195-198). And as such we come full circle in why poetry and the content it manifests is so important in shaping our culture - an in return also always in need of strong mentoring. Its influence on society is profound.