Editor Bruce Guernsey’s introductory note is nothing if not frank: “We . . . have no use for the celebrity mentality that infects the current poetry scene.” It’s a laudable sentiment, and one I share, though I’m not certain that the refusal to provide contributors’ notes is a meaningful way to respond to the “star scene.” Nonetheless, it does force me to focus exclusively on the work presented, poems by more than two dozen poets, including featured poet Michael Van Walleghan, with whom an interview also appears, an essay on pedagogy, and a review essay.
The Spoon River Poetry Review is a good choice for readers with an eclectic poetry palate; Guernsey’s editorial vision is generous, and the journal avoids the kind of showy, overly precious work that often accompanies the “celebrity mentality.” Standouts for me are work by Michelle Mitchell-Foust and Rachel Dilworth, a personal narrative and a historical one. Van Walleghan’s musings about poetry interested me as much as his poems, with his urging that we differentiate between “true eloquence and gibberish.” I was moved and humbled by his reminder that “what matters is the spiritual health that comes from doing something well.”
This issue’s “Poets on Teaching” essay is “Conjuring Place in Poetry” by Sheryl St. Germain, the Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Chatham University. So many poets are also teachers, so this seems to me a useful and worthwhile component of a poetry journal. The essay is followed, clearly not an accident, by effective poems focusing on place by Michael B. McMahon. It’s hard not to feel good about a journal with a deliberate editorial hand.