The magazine itself does not bear up to repeated scrutiny; but the blog essays, controlled and contemplative, seem to do. Inquiring of a poem by Matthew Sweeney, “Five Yellow Roses,” Baumann stumbles on the phrase, “There was no card to say who the flowers/ came from” (to which he adds italics for emphasis):
Yes, whom. But to the point, the second half of that sentence is superfluous, if not grossly pointless. There was no card: so obviously the flowers were anonymously sent. The latter seven words are redundant, add nothing to the poem, and thus are again bad writing.
I look forward to perusing the successive essays in the series. The critical essays in the back of Poetry Magazine hardly rise to the standard, with a possible reason given by Baumann in his citation of Denis Donoghue’s “The Use and Abuse of Theory” (available here): “No literature written in the past forty years has called for a distinctive critical response; by this, I mean a response such as was required to deal with the formal organization of The Waste Land, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake.”
Germane to our times, persons who find themselves appalled at the level of political discourse in America today, need but pause to reflect on the abysmal writing that has been given a pass in America’s premier poetry monthly for decades now. Baumann examines but one issue (of relatively recent minting) but he establishes principles that can be applied across the board.
Later I will take the magazines back out to the box for redumping; however I have marked up my prize copy to make sure that it doesn’t get thrown out accidentally.