Press release from Lisa Markwart, Executive Director, Foundation for Light Verse, which publishes Light Quarterly:
A doubly-sad note has sounded this spring in the world of light verse. The founding editor of the humorous verse journal Light Quarterly died this past spring at the age of seventy. For twenty years John Mella, a quirky, brilliant, prescient and uniquely inspired man, toiled almost singlehandedly to publish the only print magazine exclusively devoted to light verse. An accomplished writer himself, having published the luminous and philosophical meta-fiction novel Transformations in 1976, he had a genius for memorizing and reciting poetry, and could rattle off a 25-page poem without a mistake at the drop of a hat.
Amusing poetry, both free-form and metrical, has undergone a diminution in publishing outlets since the 1950’s, (though it remains popular with audiences and even turns a profit in Britain and other countries outside the U.S.). Says X. J. Kennedy, one of the master stylists of light verse: “…he saved a whole genre of poetry that was wilting and drying up for lack of any outlet for it.”
The next issue of Light Quarterly, which may be the last, will be a memorial issue dedicated to the memory of John Mella and the legacy of light verse he has left. It features some of his own work, and shows how wide his boundaries within the genre extended. He believed “light” verse could be applied to dark topics as well as frivolous, it could be about anything, even the death of a child, as he once remarked.
There will be tribute to John Mella at the West Chester Poetry Conference, at West Chester University in PA. On Saturday, June 9th at 8:15 a.m. a panel of three, led by Melissa Balmain will speak about his life and the legacy of Light Quarterly; it is free and open to the public.
Light Quarterly itself is now threatened with extinction due to the diminished size of its following and lack of funding. The Foundation for Light Verse (the parent organization behind the magazine) is sending out signals into the literary universe, seeking help in the form of either a generous donor(s), or an offer from a university to take over the publishing of Light Quarterly.
We hope, through some miracle of literary/interplanetary convergence, to continue to publish the best light verse writers, not only X. J. Kennedy, but also Edmund Conti, J. Patrick Lewis, Charles Ghigna, Joyce LaMers, Alicia Stallings and many other new, emerging writers.
The goals of The Foundation for Light Verse and its publication, Light Quarterly, are to bring clarity, wit, readability, and enjoyment in the reading of poems through the use of cadence, rhythm, and rhyme, and to promote the learning of such poems by heart.
Lisa Marwart can be reached via e-mail: lisa.markwart(at)lightquarterly(dot)org