I have always, strongly, believed that poetry is the product of community and community-based inquiries and energies. The generous differences and inconsistencies that arise among poets as they engage with their work might initially seem to demonstrate disagreements of approach. But this difference is mutually nourishing. One of the reasons that I’ve never grown fatigued with making poems is that the medium seems, to me, infinitely elastic; my encounters with poems by other people show me not just what’s possible with language, but also with the human mind. Poetry (like any artform, I admit) populates language with unexpected anatomies, ideas, inventions. If poetic practice ultimately reveals what already exists, it does so in a way that estranges that existence into newness. And then revelation splinters and constellates it into community.
My editorial strategy for this issue of GUEST was to invite those poets with whom I’ve had contact in the past few months to give me some poems. In a sense, the result reflects a very personal history. Susanne Dyckman is my close friend and long time collaborator. Alice Jones has published my work through Apogee Press. I know Monica Mody and Jamie Townsend through contact at Naropa University and met Hazel White in 2013 when I was doing a residency in the Bay Area. Ginny Threefoot and Kelleen Zubick came into my life through The Lighthouse in Denver. Maw Shein Win and I—I swear it!—went to junior high and high school together . Though I’ve never met Mia Malhotra face to face, Monica suggested her participation in a panel on collaboration we are planning for the New Orleans Poetry Festival. There are many other wonderful poets in my life whom I happened not to see during the time I was culling poems here. But this is a celebration of the circumstantial. Community is a resource that culls from pleasure and strength as much as happenstance and detritus. It is therefore something we need very badly right now. I offer this small community of poems with gratitude to the poets who, rather inadvertently, came together to share their work.
Elizabeth Robinson is the author, most recently, of Rumor (from Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press). With Jennifer Phelps, Robinson co-edited Quo Anima: innovation and spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry, published by University of Akron Press in 2019. Recent work has appeared in Aurochs, Black Sun Lit, Conjunctions, and Denver Quarterly.