A Letter to the New Yorker

Yesterday I wrote a letter to the editors of the New Yorker. Since I very much doubt it will get published or even answered privately (then again, who knows?) I’ve decided to publish it here, as I feel it is in the general interest of those who read and write poetry.

Dear New Yorker,

As a longtime reader, enthusiast, poet, poetry-submitter and subscriber – not necessarily in that order – I was taken aback to see that the poet Traci Brimhall (“Dear Eros“, “Love Poem Without a Drop of Hyperbole in It“) was published twice in a three-week period in January, 2018. I have no qualms with Brimhall or her work; in fact, I loved her poems on both occasions. But to publish one poet twice in such a short period, in a magazine which publishes roughly a hundred poems a year, comes off as a display of cliquishness. It reminds me of an exchange I once had with a former poetry editor of this magazine nearly twenty years ago. When I queried if I could send her some of my work, she responded with visible embarrassment, “Please understand – I have obligations.” The New Yorker is highly-regarded for the quality of the work it chooses to publish, and no one would ask that it lower its standards in order to broaden its sweep. But one wonders if, among the thousands of poems on the editor’s desk, there wasn’t one which might have rivalled Brimhall’s for ingenuity. I’d bet almost anything there was.
I’m not sure why I was so ticked off by this, but I was. A poet friend of mine says he doesn’t read the New Yorker, so he doesn’t care what they publish. Well, I do, and I generally esteem their selection. And I also recognize that a great many poets dream of seeing their work in its rarified pages. I just keep wondering, what obligations exactly? Every poet wants to be on a level playing field, don’t they? If their submissions page said, “Agented submissions only,” I’d grit my teeth and understand. But it doesn’t. It sounds friendly and open and, well, encouraging. As if you or I might actually stand a chance.
I’m not worried about burning my chances with the New Yorker because of a kvetchy little post like this one. After all, it is the New Yorker – right? What’s New York without a good kvetch?
*Update: As of May 15, 2018 there has been no response from the New Yorker. Unsurprised.

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