The St. Vincent de Paul Society Thrift Shop in the heart of Albuquerque’s thrift district is a prototypical second-hand store, with long racks of used clothing, glass cases that encircle the cash registers, shelves of home goods and knick-knacks, furniture at the rear, and a book section crowded with popular fiction and old text books. Those familiar with the place know that fresh wares start their second life on three large tables in the middle of the store. The experienced thrifter that I am, it is here where I begin my hunt. About a month ago, I found these tables teaming with books. Hundreds of them—their spines facing heaven. An Anthology of New York Poets, put out by Vintage Books in 1970, was the first to catch my eye, then The Magician’s Feastletters by Wakowski, Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda, The Jacob’s Ladder by Levertov, Plath’s Winter Trees, Poem from Jail by Ed Sanders…thin title after thin title interspersed by thick anthologies. I had come across a small library of poetry. And then there was the sign: All Books—4 for a $1. I left St. Vincent’s that day with a box that constituted 76 titles. I was thrilled and eager to get reading.
As a poet, and now poetry editor of the Blue Mesa Review (BMR), I approach the job with eagerness. I find so often that our words are the kindling of our spirit. The thousands of poems I will read for this job is daunting, but also excites. I am looking to be set on fire. The spark will come from many places: the established, the emerging, steady and scribbling hands. In essence, my editorial work is selfish. Know that I am getting something from the work you are willing to share. Whether you are a novice or a Neruda, your words carry weight. When I consider the box of books that required me to purchase yet another bookshelf for my ever shrinking casita, I think of all the minds that traced those lines before they were bound, the vulnerability offered by their writers, and the flame lit within those initial readers—some friends, some colleagues, some editors. Literature requires community.
By taking on the role of poetry editor for BMR, I am accepting a sort of leadership role in this branch of our community. This makes me uncomfortable, but this awkwardness is quelled by the knowledge that many others are caught in similar pursuit. I believe that poetry is an attempt by the writer to clarify the universal through an individual experience and that our horizon is further pushed by these many voices.
Earlier, I wrote a list of poetic elements that excite me. I planned on placing them here as a sort of stream of consciousness/list of requirements. But why? I don’t want to limit any of our submitters and future contributors by my preconceived notions of where the sun sets on poetry. Instead, I will offer you the final lines from Denise Levertov’s Song For a Dark Voice, for it is here where I believe our future begins—the basis from which I can stand and lead.
To my closed eyes
appears a curved
horizon where darkness
dazzles in your light. Your arms
hold me from falling.