“How Christian Wiman made poetry matter”


Jason Guriel of Slate has a nicely written, thought-provoking review of Christian Wiman’s new book + his term as editor of Poetry Magazine.  I found it especially interesting after posting the non-traditional Mel Nichols “I Google Myself” poem this morning, as the poem was first published in Poetry in 2009, during Wiman’s term.

“In 2003, [Wiman] assumed the helm of Poetry. The magazine had recently received a historic donation—approximately $200 million from the heiress to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune. Other poets, with lectern-long CVs, must’ve resented Wiman his incredible opportunity. But the outsider turned out to be the perfect candidate to remake the magazine and expand its audience. Because he respected poetry, he assumed that it could stand up to scrutiny, that it could benefit from some bloodletting. He greenlit young reviewers who weren’t afraid to let the air out of reputations they found inflated, and he commissioned prose from marquee names like Christopher Hitchens and Clive James, who possessed an appeal beyond the poetry world. The critical prose in the magazine’s back pages was filed to a point, trendy jargon track-changed away. One April—that’s National Poetry Month to the initiated—Wiman tacked the headline ‘National Defibrillation Month’ to the cover. Under his watch, circulation tripled from 10,000 to 30,000. It was as if Grub Street had grabbed the little mag by the scruff.”

Read more: Clarity, Faith, a Dash of Dyspepsia: How Christian Wiman made poetry matter. –  Jason Guriel – Slate 

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