My recent increased attention to the world of literary magazines has helped me realize what many of you already knew: namely, that there is a pronounced ‘aesthetic’ to editors’ choices. I suppose this is inevitable, since we are searching for something in verse, editor or no; and yet, this sort of bias is not without obvious consequences. What is thought to be ‘plain speech,’ for example, is certainly in vogue; many glossies want a humorous, undercutting, clever turn; you can even see certain genre pieces (the ‘domestic’ poem) dominating periodicals—all this ‘telegraph’ ends up creating editors and readers that have lost faceted sensibility. Unusual vocabulary reads as an affront, instead of a challenge to more accurately or fully conceptualize; poems that stop trucking in ready-made images seem ‘distant.’ A poem that takes us to the bottom of the ocean might as well be in a foreign language. A sonnet is some cave drawing.
The only exception I can see to this editorial danger is full focus on meaning and content, and an open-ended, self-effacing acknowledgment of beauty’s potential to refigure every context we own.