Introduction to Poetics

Like a child, my “I” goes forth, like a ghost.
And in times like these, her poverty shines bare

These first lines of Clare Rossini’s “Farewell to the First Person” have stayed with me for months since I first read them. Or should I say misread them? As an editor reading through hundreds of submissions each year, “poverty” became “poetry.” Not such a leap to the eye—the insertion of a “v” and the misplacement of an “r.” And it would have been difficult for me to argue, say five years ago, that poverty and poetry were neighbors on a semantic street. Yet as I’ve looked through the 51 poems in issue 11’s Poetics folio as I prepared to write this introduction, I’ve come away a little stunned by how many of these poems point toward, speak to, and speak in the voice of poverty and impoverishment. From Denise Lajimodiere’s “Starvation Winter, 1888” to Lee Sharkey’s “Plunder;” from Brittany Perham’s quiet lyric, “Fever” to Esther Greenleaf Mürer’s social critique, “Descort on a Truism,” having and not having, wanting and giving run through much of this issue’s poetry. I can say this was not done intentionally, despite our excitement about the Life in a Time of Contraction folio of nonfiction, though certainly “contraction” has made its presence felt in the lives of our genre readers and editors, and in the good writers who submit work to Drunken Boat.

All is not sorrow in this folio. We’ve included some brazen, playful, over-the-top poems. One of my favorites is Frank Montesonti’s “LOVE POEM!” for its athleticism. And Jeff Thomson’s “Telegraph Ghazal” uses the ancient poetic form to talk about this age of constant connectedness.

In times like these, we go forth in the form we bear best, hoping our poetry can carry us forward.

~Leslie McGrath
January, 2010