Sentinel Poetry (Online) #55 ISSN 1479-425X


Editor-in-Chief: Amatoritsero Ede

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On Sentinel Poetry (Online) #54, June 2007


I just finished reading Sentinel.  Really like the editorial. It seems pretty consistent with many of your editorials from this year and last.  One thing in particular jumps out at me (perhaps because of my position in academic life): you blame the critic for failing to “nurture” and/or “midwife” good poetry.  While I do not disagree with this statement – criticism has not done its part in improving the quality of contemporary verse – it seems to suggest that there is criticism of poetry out there that is failing.  In my opinion, which doesn’t count for much I’ll admit, there is a distinct paucity of criticism of contemporary poetry.  Of the 3 conferences I went to this year, I only heard two critical papers of poetry, and these were written about Shakespeare and Milton – hardly contemporary!  I have yet to meet a graduate student specializing in any poetry written after 1980, and I have yet to read a journal article or book that does the same. I’ll admit that I am somewhat ignorant in this field, but, honestly, where are the critics of contemporary poetry?  So far, Ama, you are the only one I know.  We need more critical, academic interest in this field of study to instigate change; but with the dismal poetics out there, no one seems willing to pursue their studies in this realm. A catch 22.


Your comments on the role of imperialism in the rise and decline of poetry since the 20th century emphasize the role of capital in the production of verse.  You blame in particular the small presses, the publishing industry, and I believe festivals for “hanging” onto the purse strings of supporting financial agencies, resulting in the unfocused and limp poetry of today.  There was a time when small presses shunned state handouts.  The Canadian little magazines in particular cringed at the thought of state patronage (like the Massey Commission, which created the Canada Council for the Arts); these agencies wanted poems written in maple syrup on birch bark, and small presses and little magazines knew that they could, in no way, be thought of fostering a vanguard verse.  Somewhere along the road, however, the independents lost their rebellious bone and traded in their motorbikes for shiny, new GM sedans.  A poetic bourgeoisie was born. As you note, capitalism has changed the way poetry is written in this post-fordist world, and it is not for the better.


Anyhow, like I said, I really like the editorial and Sentinel as a whole is quite good.  I can’t say I’m a fan of all the poetry in there, but there are definitely a few gems.  Please keep up the great work you are doing with this magazine.


Michele Rackham

Ottawa, Canada.







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