Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Poem from the New Yorker

Just when you think you know what kind of poetry The New Yorker publishes, they do this:

The Cold Hill Side

As months and years accumulate,
I miss you more and more.
Forgetting where I put the key,
I sometimes find a door

and other times feel stunned and lost,
though living in my own
body and life, presumably,
bewildered and alone

as the knight, kidnapped and released
to a dim world, who said
And I awoke and found me here
on the cold hill side.

--Rachel Hadas

The New Yorker, July 23 2007, p. 28

In her bio, of course, she's "published many books." The poem has merit, but not in the climate of most contemporary poetry. If I sent this piece to an online journal of moderate quality, I would have very little hope of it being accepted. Go figure.


I'm working hard at revising my novel for the upcoming writer's conference, again no great work of art but a stab at making money. Kathleen tells me my characters must be more human. I think there's not enough action and too much characterization. The important part is just to finish it, and if the hook is adequate, an editor can always fix it. I'll also have a book of essays and two of short stories tidied up for my pitch.

My mood is a little better; I haven't felt like crying yet today. I'm happy to work. A mild cold has prevented me from exercising.

I keep adding different ground covers to the exposed hill in the garden, hoping something will take. Erigeron, gazanias, heather and succulents are all hanging in there for now; as they grow it will be an eclectic landscape. They can't grow fast enough for me.

I love heather, calluna vulgaris. Here's "Warwick flame":

Still, "the weeds you have with you always."

2 Kilorats,



  1. The astoundingly poor judgment of supposedly responsible poetry editors of major publications never ceases to amaze me. Alas and alack, woe is us'unses.

    Glad you're starting to improve.

  2. "Hadas studied classics at Harvard University, poetry at Johns Hopkins, and comparative literature at Princeton University."


    A member of the eastern cabal. Everything and everywhere is corrupt at the top. Proper creds mean everything. Those without the creds shouldn't even bother reading the rag, never mind submitting to it.

    I know, I know, the grail is soooo important. Really?


  3. Are there really any "open" submissions to the snooty journals? I haven't been able to find the article, but someone told me that The New Yorker had an article on the selection process at Poetry in the recent past, how the committee sat around and discussed the merits of pieces, their author's creds being no small part of it. The advertisment for the summer double issue of Poetry certainly features big names only.

    As an editor for 8 years I asked for people not to include bios. I was prejudiced toward any who did. I was only interested in the work.

    Still, the world of poetry is no more incestuous than that of any other art form, and if the battles are bitter it's because the stakes are so small.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Anonymous12:53 AM PDT

    I rarely submit to online journals much less the New Yorker, but I have to wonder after reading this one what they would do with this poemif I did...trash it I suspect. I know you know these birds well, though. : )

    I am not a poet, never will be...but after reading that New Yorker poem, it truly makes me wonder about the state of the art.


    Beats measured, legs trailing
    he lands; blues the creek
    and all things slow to match his stride,
    savor his grace for the length he stays.

    And osprey woman headed home,
    how she carries her fish head-first,
    whistles and circles over and over
    while thieves give chase--
    it makes me wonder
    if she intuitively knows
    one more turn, the sheer joy in flight
    is worth the risk of losing her grip.

    And you, blackbird, dear raven
    companion, never miss a trick.
    Do you swoop low to chortle and tock,
    jump up and down my path for fun
    or is it my silver braid you crave,
    wait to unravel, carry away flying?


  6. I disagree; you are a poet. Nicely done on the heron intro. Robert Creeley is my favorite example of a mediocre poet who achieved great academic acclaim.

  7. Glad to hear you're feeling better.

    I was going to say that a mild cold shouldn't keep you from exercising but each person reacts differently to a cold and its symptoms. Me, I like to power through a sickness and force myself to workout anyway. I feel that the sweating is almost like a purging of germs. I always feel all glowy and higher than high after working out during a cold or upper respiratory bug.

    But like I said, every body's different.

    It must be frustrating to try and try and try all these different drugs and have them impact or not impact your brain chemicals.

    I find your openness regarding your illness, your willingess to discuss the various drugs and reactions as well as your admissions to crying jags refreshing. This is the sort of stuff society used to hide away in asylums or shame into silence.

    Which just reminded me of all the profoundly disburbed street people I used to encounter in Pittburgh, patients released from mental hospitals back in the 80's after that law was passted (something about not being able to commit someone without their own consent, maybe?) How criminal to lock these people away for years and treat them like animals, and then, how equally criminal to set these people loose unmedicated without any therapy or aid in transiition out into the streets.

    I keep thinking about that boy that killed all the people at Virginia Tech. Everyone around him knew that something was wrong, that he was angry and depressed and hostile and disturbed, and some folks tried to help him but he still managed to slip through the cracks.

    On an entirely different note, hank you for posting the Haddas poem.

    Here's the poem I wrote in response to it:


    Like inches and inches of snow.
    And the inevitable, regrettable

    melting. The hole in the pocket,
    expected. It all goes, the remembering

    and forgetting, without being said.
    The hinges, an un-oiled jaw, betray

    the body’s passage through.
    The difference between coming

    and going dependent solely on the point
    of view. Meanwhile, the stinger,

    that headless chicken goes on living,
    wingless. What’s life without a little pain

    injected in between breaths? Memory.
    And the soul, a dogwood in full bloom,

    burns bright as a tiger just inside the forest.
    Already, petals, fallen, sullied, sullen,

    dulled, below. Lost in the gloom. Tell no one
    I stole the night. Tied its hands behind

    its back; gagged it. Refused the moon’s
    ransom. When I awake in this body, strange

    and new, the cold mountain will be over me.
    Or, rather: This body will be below it.

  8. Not a moving poem - and a bit too typical of the established literary world, I'm afraid. I agree CE. Who seems to be so much more important than what.

  9. What a weird poem. It's not even fashionable -- and the poet not even that recognisable. It's as if the editor were having a fluffy kitten kind of day and just said "to hell with it! I think it's cute."

    I know someone who works in layout for the New Yorker (she's a poet herself) and even she bewails their consistently poor judgement.



Please share your opinion!

Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!