aptly titled “First Appearances.” The simple two-color cover, once a fluorescent sea-green, is now badly faded, and the line drawing of a flying horse (Pegasus) illustrated by
is largely obscured by what looks like an ugly oil-stain. My initials mark the cover, as does the line “George Rickey — Constructivism,” though I have long forgotten why I deemed that particular statement important enough to mar this issue. What I do remember, vividly, is one of the poems inside, a little gem by Jim Handlin titled “Remnants.”
1Everything gets slow, stops.I reread the telegram.
2I remember the squirrel deadat the end of the driveway.The body thrown up on the grassnext to the azalea.The red where the car hitso different from the red of the bush.All that day and the nextI thought of waysto stay close to my mother.
3They auction off the contents of the estate. Limoges andcloisonné, piece after piece.The bed she slept in, her silvertea set. I notice cobwebsin corners, dust, placeswhere the wallpaper’s faded/Her painting for some other wall,her gold for someone else’s finger.Outside taillights slash the night:red and more red.
I am unsure why I bought that issue of Poetry
. At the time, I was a sophomore in college majoring in English Literature; I imagine now that this was likely the time I experimented writing some (bad) verse myself. But Jim Handlin’s poem has stayed with me nearly thirty years, as has the issue that contained it.Harriet Monroe
magazine in 1912; it is the oldest monthly publication devoted to poetry in the world. Its mission is “to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach.” The magazine established its reputation by publishing some of the first important poems written by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, H. D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and many, many others. But with no obvious poetic talent and little interest in pursuing the discipline, it is no surprise that I didn’t pick up another copy of the magazine until I happened upon one several decades later.
My stepmother, Georganna Millman, is a poet, and lives with my father deep in the Catskill Mountains. One weekend, about five years ago, I noticed a copy of Poetry
magazine in the living room. But this didn’t look like the old copy I remembered tucked among my college paperbacks. This was a redesigned Poetry
— a resplendent four-color cover on a sumptuous matte-white stock. I rifled through the issue to see who the art director was, and was surprised to see that Winterhouse was the firm responsible for this modern and nearly edgy new look.
That holiday season I received a card in the mail from the magazine notifying me that I was the lucky recipient of a gift subscription from my stepmother. Every month thereafter, I received one gorgeous issue after another. Each was a precious tome-like jewel with cover artwork by the likes of John Arndt
, Barry Blitt
, David Bryne
, Karen Caldicot
and Felix Sockwell
. But my favorite cover came from Maira Kalman
for the special Humor Issue
in July/August 2006. Upon first glance, it appeared to be a Kalman classic: beautiful, charming and sweet. But upon further examination, I discovered Maira spelled Poetry PEOTRY. Even the trademark had to be changed for the issue to allow it to be mailed by USPS! Now that
It has been five years and 60 covers since Poetry
magazine’s redesign. As the venerable magazine nears its 100-year anniversary, the publication is stronger than ever — and its commitment to illustration for its covers has not waivered. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Poetry’s editor, Christian Wiman
, who has been at the helm of the magazine since 2003 — when the magazine became a part of the Poetry Foundation
Cover Poetry, March 1933. Pegasus illustration by Eric Gill
: One of the nice things about the covers today is the mix of very well known, very established, very respected artists and illustrators, as well as really new, fresh voices. CW
: This is very deliberate; we want the same ethos that pervades the contents of the magazine to be present in the covers.DM
: What would you say that ethos is?CW
: We seek to discover and publish new voices. Discovery is our mission. This has been Poetry
magazine’s mission since the beginning. That applies to the illustrators we choose, not just to the poets and writers.DM
: Do you have a favorite cover? CW
: Certainly, the cover of our first redesigned issue in April 2005
is one of my favorites. The artwork is by Henrik Drescher
, and features a man jumping around. DM
: That fit with the new tone of the magazine?CW
: That was really our line in the sand. A stand up and take notice moment.DM
: Yes, yes it was.