Constructing American Tradition in Poetry

           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. 

"A Servian Epic"

A curious case of bibliography in the Poetry Magazine Vol. 1 No. 16, pages 29-32  caught my eye... It was titles "A Servian Epic" and it was indeed not even poetry. This was an editorial that spoke of the power of poetry to influence something as major as war. Although editorials are a fairly reoccurring thing throughout the Poetry magazine this one proved interesting because it spoke of how poetry could actually influence sentiment and in turn real life. We most often think of life influencing art but here the opposite was presented. What if art influenced life? The argument given was that poetry was used to stir nationalism and thus fuel people to go out and fight for their homeland. If the weight of poetry is indeed so heavy then imagine the impact a pen can have on all of us. This entry revealed the influence of poetry even though we often don’t think of poetry as a persuasive genre. Secondly the majority of the themes spoken of here can be seen as almost identical to those we faced in the most recent round of “Servian” wars/ Balkan Madness. Although here the main character provoking the urge to fight is Guslar he is almost identical to the leaders, which followed him in the not so distant future, such as Tito and Milosevic. The following is an excerpt of apiece used to stir nationalist sentiment:

Whoever born of Serbian blood or kin

Comes not to fight the Turk on Kossovo

To him he never son or daughter born,

No child to heir his lands or bear his name!

For him no grape grow red, no corn grow white;

In his hands nothing prosper!

May he live

Alone, unloved! And die unmourned, alone!

This truly touched on my curiosity because I am indeed Serbian and a survivor of the last round of Balkan fighting. The issues spoken of here are ones we’re still struggling with now such as the question of Kosovo and it’s meaning to the Serb people

Due: 6/9 Blog Entry 


The English Review in its January 1910 publication demonstrates stylistic choices that have become the literary norm in the 21st century.  The advertising is intentional and specifically geared for the literary crowd.  The prime retail space directly behind the front cover is reserved for paying advertisers of new books, pens, publishers, and novelties.  This section of the Review is numbered with Roman numerals like the introduction of a book, and the header identifies it as "The English Review Advertiser."  The English Review officially begins with its title on page 185, presumably because the previous issue ended on page 184.  So, the many issues of this publication can be torn away from the ads and bound together into a unified volume of literature without advertising or other interruption. 

Illustrations Around "A Superman"

"A Superman" is a short story by Hall Ruffy found in the Winter, 1911 issue of Rhythm. It tells of a seemingly ordinary cafe, most likely in France, considering that whatever dialogue is written in interaction with the waiting staff of the cafe is in French. Two people are seated separately at the cafe; once they were lovers, now they watch each other from afar. "A Superman" offers a tense glimpse into the furtive thoughts of these two, going about a seemingly ordinary activity, disturbed inwardly by the sight of one another. The interruption propmts him to get drunk, whereupon he reveals that she has left him for a wealthy fat man, the one whom she is with. She, despite her having left her lover for another, is unhappy. She is young and attractive, and imagines leaving at that moment in the cafe, for her old beloved. The story is interrupted by a picture. It is a copy of a painting by Auguste Chaubaud. It looks dreary and dark, dotted with globs of paint. It seems to portray a desolate street scene, under a patched umbrella, potentially seats in a cafe, with a dark silhouettes in the distance. The cafe is described as lively in the story, as though busy and bright in the daytime; moreover, the painting has no particularly distinct connection to the story, despite its location amid the pages of the narrative. The artist is different, as is even listed separately in the table of contents at the beginning of the magazine issue. Why then place the picture in between in story's content? It reminds me of a line in the text: "Just in that moment he was in the passive condition when one seems to be outside of life. All was like a picture which he looked at critically; the pale green chairs and tables; the laurel trees in white boxes looking unreal in the brilliant light with men and women dotted about." The description with its "white boxes" and "dotted" imagery is reminiscent of a similar scene, maybe and a different time of day, or a different season, one cannot be entirely sure, but it influences the imagery within one's own imagination.

The end of the story also hosts a small "Study" in the blank half of the page below the text. The picture, by J. D. Fergusson portrays an open champagne bottle, upon a cluttered table, potentially and illustration of the scenario described in the story, when the man gets drunk. Also a thought provoking piece of art.

In addition, the story itself begins with a French epigraph, although the story itself is not in French; however, there are many French articles in this particular issue of Rhythm, mostly proceeding this particular story. The influence of the French language and culture within the sequence of what goes into the issue itself is an interesting way to view what material surround this story, and why the issue was assembled in its particular fashion.

Bibliographic Coding in Art


Stanley Spencer's 1912 illustration, "Joachim Among the Sheepcotes" pays homage to the 14th century artist Giotto, and his painting "Joachim Taking Refuge Among the Shepherds".  While Spencer's original drawing was mostly pen and pencil with a subtle wash, its reprint in "The Blue Review" (vol. 2) gives the work a starkly contrasted, black and white quality, straying from the softer, sepia-like feel of Spencer's initial illustration. 

Giotto's painting, as the basis for Spencer's later work, provides a religious context to both pieces, as Joachim is said to be the father of the Virgin Mary.  This becomes pertinent if we are to understand the usage of any version of this piece by "The Blue Review".  Indeed, it seems noteworthy that Spencer's piece appears before any literary works in this volume of "The Blue Review", as the ensuing literary contribuitions have a similarly spiritual quality.

 Whether it be of reverance as we see in James Elroy Flecker’s “Yasmin” (“And some to Mecca turn to pray, and I toward thy bed, Yasmin”), or vague allusion to sanctity as seen by Norman Boothroyd’s “The End of the Lonely King” (“They shed no tear: they prayed no prayer”), it seems that the binding themes emerge as religiously entrenched.  As we read on, our questions of religious significance might arguably be answered by John Drinkwater's (the next contributing writer in this volume of “The Blue Review”) black and white affirmation: “Art is holy”.


Bibliographic Coding in The Blue Review

"The Blue Review" (Vol 1, No.3) is filled with all kinds of essays and poems which all showcase the different writing styles of the authors of that time. There is not much else in terms of art or advertisements. However, there is one advertisement that shows up in the very beginning of the magazine; This advertisement showcases two different novels. The first half of the page talks about a novel called "The Golden Journey to Samarakand" by James Elroy Flecker. It says that "his work is now eagerly looked for by all who really care for poetry". This to me sounds like the author is saying that whoever doesn't get this book must obviously not care about poetry.

The second half of the page advertises Compton Mackenzie's "Famous" novel, "Carnival", which is written in big bold letters. This is most likely the first word people see when they first look at the page. I would assume that this was done because, unlike the long and condescending description for the first novel, there is very little description for this one. So I guess in order to get people interested they had to use large letters to catch the readers attention.

It was interesting to me that this was the only advertisement in the whole magazine. Not only was it the only one but it comes right in the very beginning after the table of contents. That clearly shows its importance and kind of sets the stage for the many writings that are to come in the magazine.

Bibliographic coding in Dana

Instances of bibliographic coding in Dana #8 (from December 1904):  a sequence of two articles and a poem, which together develop a strong sense of the magazine's own principles and aims.  The first article, "In Praise of the Gaelic League" by Stephen Gwynn, addresses criticisms raised by a "Mr. Ryan" against the League, which was conceived in an effort to preserve the use of the Gaelic language in Ireland.  Following this article is the first half of a short biography of Jane Austen (the second half was published in the following issue), which not only relates details of  Austen's life, but also praises the bucolic character of her novels as they were informed by her own happy distance from "the grim misfeature of the England of collieries and factories" (Dana 8, 251).  Finally, appearing on the last page of this article is a poem by Seumas O'Sullivan, "In the City."  O'Sullivan views the city as a display of the fallen state of humanity, a kind of anti-Eden, where what is natural and good is stifled within its streets, among the "rows of stinking fish and vegetables" (251).  The publication of these three works in sequence supports, in diverse and nuanced ways, Dana's overall interest in questions of Irish culture: Irish culture vs. the presence of England/English in Ireland, the primitive vs. progress, industrialization vs. progress, the country and the city, Edenic nature vs. toxic urbanity.  What first drew me to these pieces together was the inclusion of Austen's biography, nearly a century after her death.  Certainly, such biographies are a dime a dozen and concrete details about Austen's life at this point appear finite: there is very little left to uncover.  However, examining the writing which appears before and after the biography gives clues as to the significance and relevance of Austen's work to the editors of Dana.  By placing her stories firmly at a distance from the dramas of the city and world politics, Austen appeals to the longing for a return to innocence, to a more simple though not simplistic way of life, something purer, unmarred by the corrosive realities of London.  O'Sullivan's poem, in its indictment of the city immediately following, supports the presence of this longing in the pages of Dana itself.  Together, these two pieces provide an interesting context for the article supporting the Gaelic League, which may not necessarily reject English influence on Irish culture, but does seek to preserve a more "natural" Irish character in a time of English/imperial influence.

Advertisements and their sincerity

In the New Age Volume 1, Page 16 there are a variety of advertisements. In fact, the one that stood out to me was the ad for a book or some type of journal dealing with the issues of vaccination. In today's time, this is still an issue. Then, according to the ad, there was fear of a link between "vaccination and cancer." Today, there is a fear that there is a link between vaccination and autism. I use the word fear here, because there is no conclusive proof on either side of the argument. Although some argue that if there is no conclusive proof on either side of the linkage between autism and vaccinations, then it should be required to vaccinate, because the threat of mumps or measles is all too real.

In any event, the bibliographic coding that makes this advertisement even more prevalent is the placement of the advertisement between two others. The one above it is an ad for Justice, a social democratic newspaper. The other is for Cadbury Cocoa, a 'high class beverage of absolute purity.' Notwithstanding the factual basis for it's 'absolute purity,' but the issue of vaccination seems to be sandwiched in between advertisements of a frivolous nature. This is comparable to the ads in the back of a men's fitness periodical that declare their product give the users physical enhancement and that these results are scientifically based. The main reason that these claims are often debunked is because they share ad space with 900 numbers and other sexually explicit classifieds. So too here, the validity of the work that is advertised, the information on vaccinations, is similarly seen by the twenty-first century viewer.

"A Study in Dubiety"

One interesting example of bibliographic coding can be seen in the placement of the cartoon "A Study in Dubiety" by Max Beerborn in the first issue of The Blue Review. Appearing, as it does, immediately after the table of contents and before the first poems of the journal, this cartoon seems to stand as a sort of introduction. Its content as well signals that such a designation is apt.

"A Study in Dubiety" depicts the editor of "Georgian Poetry", an anthology of modern British verse, debating as to what should qualify for inclusion in his book. The cartoon is satire, however, as the the "poem" he is contemplating is actually a political slogan of the day. Taken on its own this poem may be interpreted simply as a musing on the nature of poetry or possible a critique of British politics, Within the context of The Blue Review, however, its meaning may be construed differently.

This instantiation of the cartoon highlights the concept of the selection process. That is, what should or should not be included by editors in a collection of poems or of other artworks. It is not a manifesto as it does not offer a concrete position on this matter, but it introduces this question that readers must consider as they read the journal.

Art and Poetry in Rythm

I noticed a lot of connections between the art in Rythm and the poetry. In Rythm Vol. 2, No. 6, there is a piece called "Petrouchka" that is about the Russian ballet. Both pieces of art that surround the piece ( and depict dancers.

In Rythm Vol. 2, No. 6, the first poem, "The Sea Child," by Katherine Mansfield is about a mother letting a child go, at the bottom of the page is a bent over figure that embodies the poem. In this instance more than the first I believe a lot would be lost if the poem was reprinted without the art.

It should be interesting to look into more instances of work to art relationships.