By now, most poets have read the debate (if you could call it that) between critic Helen Vendler and poet Rita Dove about Dove’s selections for the Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry. I find it disappointing that the conversation is not really centered on the quality of the poetry included, but rather on the poets excluded from the anthology and the race/ethnicity of the writers Dove chose to include. Being the editor for any sort of comprehensive anthology cannot be easy, much less putting together an anthology in a field as wide and diverse as contemporary American poetry. I haven’t picked up the book to read and form my own opinions, and I certainly would not deny anyone theirs. I hope that the conversation can turn to discussion of the poems themselves, on their own merit. But I doubt it. Sigh.
Without giving away any names, I would like to say how weird and lovely it was today to get a rejection notice that gave VERY specific commentary (positive) about two of the four poems in my submission, even making an insightful revision suggestion about one of them that made total sense to me. It made me happy that there are editors out there who read with such care, and it reminded me that rejections don’t necessarily mean the poems are not good. Sometimes all of the anxiety about a “no” has a simple answer and all that angst is much ado…about nothing.