I got a very pleasant surprise in the mail today: the Summer 2009 issue of The MIdwest Quarterly: A Journal of Contemporary Thought. This is the 4th number of volume 50, and it contains poems drawn from the publication’s 50 years of existence. I knew that one of my poems would be in it, which is flattering enough; what I did not know is that the editor, Stephen Meats, would be choosing just 100 poems to represent those 50 years.
It’s exciting but a little daunting to find my poem alongside others by writers I strongly admire—from James Tate and Naomi Shihab Nye to Tess Gallagher and Ted Kooser. It’s also a treat to find some personal friends here, including Andrea Hollander Budy, Mary Crow, and James Doyle (the man who saved my college days from academic dullness by introducing me to living poets like W. S. Merwin and Robert Bly, and plunging my mind into the imaginal depths of Yeats). Best of all, there are plenty of poems by writers whose work I don’t know well or know not at all, which means the issue will be an adventure.
This last quality, the adventure, is the most satisfying aspect of being published, I think: you realize that you’re part of a largely hidden group of travelers, à la Chaucer’s—your fellow pilgrims who only now and then are manifested beside you on the open road….