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The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of

The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of "Poetry" Magazine

by Don Share

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When Harriet Monroe founded Poetry magazine in Chicago in 1912, she began with an image: the Open Door. “May the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, or half-shut, against his ample genius!” For a century, the most important and enduring poets have walked through that door—William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens in its


When Harriet Monroe founded Poetry magazine in Chicago in 1912, she began with an image: the Open Door. “May the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, or half-shut, against his ample genius!” For a century, the most important and enduring poets have walked through that door—William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens in its first years, Rae Armantrout and Kay Ryan in 2011. And at the same time, Poetry continues to discover the new voices who will be read a century from now.

Poetry’s archives are incomparable, and to celebrate the magazine’s centennial, editors Don Share and Christian Wiman combed them to create a new kind of anthology, energized by the self-imposed limitation to one hundred poems. Rather than attempting to be exhaustive or definitive—or even to offer the most familiar works—they have assembled a collection of poems that, in their juxtaposition, echo across a century of poetry. Adrienne Rich appears alongside Charles Bukowski; poems by Isaac Rosenberg and Randall Jarrell on the two world wars flank a devastating Vietnam War poem by the lesser-known George Starbuck; August Kleinzahler’s “The Hereafter” precedes “Prufrock,” casting Eliot’s masterpiece in a new light. Short extracts from Poetry’s letters and criticism punctuate the verse selections, hinting at themes and threads and serving as guides, interlocutors, or dissenting voices.

The resulting volume is an anthology like no other, a celebration of idiosyncrasy and invention, a vital monument to an institution that refuses to be static, and, most of all, a book that lovers of poetry will devour, debate, and keep close at hand.

Editorial Reviews

World Literature Today
"If readers would like to sample the genius and diversity of American poetry in the last century, there's no better place to start than The Open Door."
"A high-wire anthology of electric resonance. . . . The editors arranged these redefining poems by poets of the pantheon and poets overlooked, underrated, or new in pairings and sequences of thrilling contrapuntal dynamics. Wiman's opening essay is titled 'Mastery and Mystery,' and those are, indeed, the forces at work here, inducing readers to marvel anew at the strange impulse to write poetry and the profound effort required to do it well."

National Post

"A wonderful anthology. . . . In many ways this is a wonderfully democratic anthology—to get in, you don't have to be famous, you just need to be good."
Paris Review - Emma Goldhammer

“ If you need to be reminded of the incomparable poems that Poetry magazine published first in its pages, read excellent poetry by an author you might not have discovered yet, or simply remember why poetry is worth loving, this is the book to turn to. You won’t be disappointed.”

Washington Independent Review of Books

“Surely, the history of American poetry is in this elegant commanding volume. All you need is this one book in the classroom to light the fire.”

starred review Library Journal
"With this collection, Share and Wiman want only to promote the art of poetry, something they do exceedingly well. Highly recommended."
Publishers Weekly
Founded in the flower of modernism, important (and importantly unpartisan) during the clash of styles and schools in the 1960s, and resurgent (as well as well-funded) today, the magazine out of Chicago has long had a place at the center of U.S. verse. Share and Wiman—who now hold the titles of editor and senior editor—select a delightful and powerful set of poems from the magazine’s history. Though the arrangement avoids chronological order, the earliest and the most recent years stand out, from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and Isaac Rosenberg’s WWI poetry to 21st-century work by Ange Mlinko and Laura Kasischke. In between come Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, Lucille Clifton, and more leading lights, though the real distinction—emphasized by the order—lies in the poems from five or 50 years ago whose authors never became world-famous, such as the bittersweet rhymed quatrains in “On Leaving the Bachelorette Brunch,” by the late Rachel Wetzsteon. Tantalizing bits of prose from the magazine appear, almost like bookmarks, interspersed among poems: the philosopher Richard Rorty, for example, confesses, “I now wish that I had spent somewhat more of my life with verse.” With its friendly layout and its relative brevity, the volume feels like an extended issue of the magazine; it may find one life as a gift book, but it should find another as pleasure reading, especially for those who have not already discovered many of the poets here. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This collection contains the best 100 poems to appear in Poetry magazine from its inception in 1912 to the present. At least, that's how editors Share and Wiman see it, and after reading Wiman's insightful and poetically written introduction as well as the poems selected, one would agree wholeheartedly. Culling from 300,000 poems, the editors sought aesthetic quality as opposed to well-known names, Often, they were able to find both a highly regarded poet and one of his or her best-known poems, like Ezra Pound's "In a Station at the Metro" or T.S. Eliot's "The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Sometimes, the editors found (and rejected) poems with lines "that leap up…like the limbs of a prodded lab frog, then flop back down," as Wiman delightfully puts it. (One wishes he had mentioned the titles of these poems.) When founding editor Harriet Monroe began publishing this monthly periodical of poetry and criticism, she established an open-door policy, hoping to encourage both the great and the unknown to submit their work. The downside of this approach was including both the wheat and the chaff. The upside is evident here. VERDICT With this collection, Share and Wiman want only to promote the art of poetry, something they do exceedingly well. Highly recommended.—Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD

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University of Chicago Press
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Copyright © 2012 The Poetry Foundation
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-75070-5

Chapter One

      In a Station of the Metro

    The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
    Petals on a wet, black bough.

      April 1913

      KAY RYAN
      Sharks' Teeth

    Everything contains some
    silence. Noise gets
    its zest from the
    small shark's-tooth
    shaped fragments
    of rest angled
    in it. An hour
    of city holds maybe
    a minute of these
    remnants of a time
    when silence reigned,
    compact and dangerous
    as a shark. Sometimes
    a bit of a tail
    or fin can still
    be sensed in parks.

      April 2004


    I explain ontology, mathematics, theophily,
    Symbolic and Aristotelian logic, says the tree.

    I demonstrate perspective's and proportion's ways.
    I elucidate even greyness by my greys and greys and greys.

    Gravity's laws, the four dimensions, Sapphic imagery,
    Come from contemplating me,
    Says the tree.

    I perfectly exhibit the functions of earth and air:
    Look up, at and through, my branches, leaved, budded, or bare
    Laid in their luminous degrees against lustrous infinity:
    Your seeing relates you to all of space, through me.
    Here's aesthetics, too. No sight's nearer to perfectly fair.
    I am mediate and immediate, says the tree.

    I am variable, exquisite, tough,
    Even useful; I am subtle; all this is enough.
    I don't want to be a temple, says the tree.
    But if you don't behave, I will be.

      March 1958

      The Young

    You bastards! It's all sherbet, and folly
    makes you laugh like mules. Chances
    dance off your wrists, each day ready,

    sprites in your bones and spite not yet
    swollen, not yet set. You gather handful
    after miracle handful, seeing straight,

    reaching the lighthouse in record time,
    pockets brim with scimitar things. Now
    is not a pinpoint but a sprawling realm.

    Bewilderment and thrill are whip-quick
    twins, carried on your backs, each vow
    new to touch and each mistake a broken

    biscuit. I was you. Sea robber boarding
    the won galleon. Roaring trees. Machines
    without levers, easy in bowel and lung.

    One cartwheel over the quicksand curve
    of Tuesday to Tuesday and you're gone,
    summering, a ship on the farthest wave.

      December 2008

      Valéry as Dictator

    Sad. And it comes
    tomorrow. Again, grey, the streaks
    of work
    shedding the stone
    of the pavement, dissolving
    with the idea
    of singular endeavour. Herds, the
    of suffering intelligences
    and out of
    hearing. Though the day
    come to us
    in waves,
    sun, air, the beat
    of the clock.
    Though I stare at the radical
    wishing it would stand still.
    Tell me,
    and I gain at the telling.
    Of the lie, and the waking
    against the heavy breathing
    of new light, dawn, shattering
    the naive cluck
    of feeling.
    What is tomorrow
    that it cannot come

      December 1963

Don't be "viewy"—leave that to the writers of pretty little philosophic essays. Don't be descriptive; remember that the painter can describe a landscape much better than you can, and that he has to know a deal more about it.

EZRA POUND, March 1913

I would trade the bulk of contemporary anecdotal free verse for more incisive, chilling poetry.... There's more pathos in a poetry that recognizes the universe is central; the poor human, eccentric.

ANGE MLINKO, October 2007

      Eros Turannos

    She fears him, and will always ask
      What fated her to choose him;
    She meets in his engaging mask
      All reasons to refuse him;
    But what she meets and what she fears
    Are less than are the downward years,
    Drawn slowly to the foamless weirs
      Of age, were she to lose him.

    Between a blurred sagacity
      That once had power to sound him,
    And Love, that will not let him be
      The seeker that she found him,
    Her pride assuages her, almost,
    As if it were alone the cost.
    He sees that he will not be lost,
      And waits, and looks around him.

    A sense of ocean and old trees
      Envelops and allures him;
    Tradition, touching all he sees
      Beguiles and reassures him;
    And all her doubts of what he says
    Are dimmed with what she knows of days,
    Till even prejudice delays,
      And fades—and she secures him.

    The falling leaf inaugurates
      The reign of her confusion;
    The pounding wave reverberates
      The crash of her illusion;
    And home, where passion lived and died,
    Becomes a place where she can hide,—
    While all the town and harbor side
      Vibrate with her seclusion.

    We tell you, tapping on our brows,
      The story as it should be,—
    As if the story of a house
      Were told, or ever could be;
    We'll have no kindly veil between
    Her visions and those we have seen,—
    As if we guessed what hers have been
      Or what they are, or would be.

    Meanwhile, we do no harm; for they
      That with a god have striven,
    Not hearing much of what we say,
      Take what the god has given;
    Though like waves breaking it may be,
    Or like a changed familiar tree,
    Or like a stairway to the sea,
      Where down the blind are driven.

      March 1914

      It Was a Bichon Frisé's Life ...

    Louisiana skies paddle north nodding hello to some exiles
    displaced by floodwaters so we all putter in the bisque
    in fretted dresses, alleviated by a fan. But we have nothing on

    "Le Matin," in whose rococo frame a curtain sweeps to bare
    a boudoir, a Bichon Frisé worrying something between paws,
    begging the dulcet glance of the mistress whose push-up,

    cupless corset and up-drawn stocking border what they
    fall short of, per the stern frame rippling like a cloud!
    Even the candle angles to get a look in the mirror

    engloving the scene. Why it is her slipper the bitch clutches!
    The gentleman's reverie is elsewhere ... Loitering
    Louisiana stops to admire this engraving by "N. Lavreinee."

    What a chevalier! It makes the smeariest sunset think
    it's in a Restoration Comedy, in such humidity
    chefs defer meringues. "Ksar Rouge," "Taos Adobe,"

    "Gulf Shrimp"—a thousand names of softboiled
    lipsticks fritter English as if it were French, meaning
    meeting no resistance from the flesh.

      June 2008


    The world is full of loss; bring, wind, my love,
      my home is where we make our meeting-place,
      and love whatever I shall touch and read
      within that face.

    Lift, wind, my exile from my eyes;
      peace to look, life to listen and confess,
      freedom to find to find to find
      that nakedness.

      October 1941

      The Hereafter

    At the gates to the Hereafter,
    a rather drab affair, might as well be a union hall
    in south Milwaukee, but with shackled
    sweating bodies along the walls,
    female, chiefly, and not at all miserable,
    straining like bored sultanas at their fetters,
    each of them singing a separate song.
    A Semitic chap—the greeter, I suppose—
    gives me the quick once-over
    and most amused he seems to be. Has me figured.
    Not unlike a gent I met only last week,
    a salesman at a stereo shop on Broadway.
    —So, he says. Nothing more.
    —Sew buttons, says I, in a cavalier mood
    and why not.
      Ushers me into a tiny cinema,
    a two-seater, really quite deluxe,
    a great big Diet Coke in the cupholder,
    fizzing away.
      —O.K.? he asks.
    I nod and the film unrolls.
    A 20-million-dollar home movie it is,
    featuring yours truly: at the foot
    of the stairs with the dog, mounting
    Josette in a new Smyrna love nest,
    a fraught kitchen showdown with Mom,
    the suicide, car wreck, home run.
    You know what these things are like:
    the outlandish hairdos, pastel bathroom fixtures.
    The editing is out of this world,
    the whole shebang in under an hour:
    the air-raid drill on Wednesday morning,
    1957, when Tito wet his pants;
    there I am, beside myself with laughter,
    miserable little creature.
    The elemental, slow-motion machinery
    of character's forcing house.
    Even with all the fancy camera angles,
    jump cuts and the rest,
    might as well be a chain of short features:
    Animal Husbandry, Sexual Hygiene,
    Lisboa by Night ...

    What a lot of erections, voiding, pretzels,
    bouncing the ball against the stoop.
    She really did love you, all along.
    These jealousies and rages of yours,
    like a disgusting skin condition
    that never goes away.
    You, you ...
    What catalogs of failure, self-deception ...
    And then the lights come back on,
    likewise the choir's splintered polyphony,
    with its shards of Sprechstimme, the Ronettes, whatnot,
    and in the air around us
    something like the odor of a freshly spent cartridge,
    when my minder asks brightly,
      —How about another Coke?

      October 2003

    T. S . ELIOT
    The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

    S' io credessi che mia risposta fosse
    A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
    Questa fiamma staria senza piú scosse.
    Ma perciocchè giammai di questo fondo
    Non tornò vivo alcum, s' i' odo il vero,
    Senza tema d' infamia ti rispondo.

      Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherized upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question ...

    Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
    Let us go and make our visit.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

      The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window panes,
    Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
    Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
    Let fall upon its back the spot that falls from chimneys,
    Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
    And seeing that it was a soft October night,
    Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

      And indeed there will be time
    For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
    Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
    There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
    There will be time to murder and create,
    And time for all the works and days of hands
    That lift and drop a question on your plate:
    Time for you and time for me,
    And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
    And for a hundred visions and revisions,
    Before the taking of a toast and tea.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

      And indeed there will be time
    To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"—
    Time to turn back and descend the stair,
    With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
    (They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!")
    My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
    My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
    (They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!")
    Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

      For I have known them already, known them all:
    Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
    I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
    I know the voices dying with a dying fall
    Beneath the music from a farther room.
        So how should I presume?

      And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
    The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase.
    And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
    When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
    Then how should I begin
    To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
        And how should I presume?


Excerpted from THE OPEN DOOR Copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. Excerpted by permission of THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Don Share, senior editor of Poetry¸ is a poet and the author, editor, or translator of numerous books. Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry from 2003 to 2013, is the author of three books of poetry, a volume of essays, and a memoir.

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