So I flip to the back of the book, maybe because that’s what Madison Magazine readers do every month (see why here). More likely, though, it’s because the paperback I hold in my hands—a poem of epic proportions—is so new its spine hugs a hundred pages tight like earth clutching skinny blades of grass. I hold the soft cover steady with both hands, and then scan the words on the page with indifference; they’ll be of no use to me.
“This book is set in Adobe Jensen. Jensen is a digital reflection of typefaces designed in fifteenth-century Venice.”
The person who gave me the book loves Italy like a drunk loves gin. But I quickly conclude that the font’s Euro-pedigree isn’t why he picked up Braided Creek, by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser, for my thirty-seventh birthday last week. (Nor is it the gin.)
While I’d like to think there’s some karmic moment hard at work here, my rational self tells me I ended up at the end of the book by accident. And that the reason my boss chose the raw and sentimental Braided Creek is not because of Italian typeface but instead to high-five the launch of our new poetry column, “A Poet’s Place.” Neil is a huge fan of both poets, who in the book correspond back and forth with one another through short poems after Kooser is diagnosed with cancer. The intimate exchange is published as one long and winding sonnet played out on the page like a dynamic tennis match between two of the best players in the world.
To execute the mag’s new poetry corner, Neil wisely suggested we use Kooser’s free weekly column for newspapers and online publications, “American Life in Poetry.” So like any enterprising editor, I lifted the format in full. Kooser, who served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004–2006, picks a poet, writes why it’s inspirational to him, and then shares the poem. But Kooser isn’t podcasting the things of beauty. That was our idea.
Our debut poem was penned by Madison poet laureate Fabu, who, from henceforth, will choose poems submitted to her for consideration at firstname.lastname@example.org. The project is in its infancy and already we have a passel of poets aching to be published. It’s good to be desirable, but I fear (no, I know) that part of this endeavor’s popularity is the dearth of poetry in everyday life. While there is poets’ prose percolating in every corner of this city, you often never know it unless you travel in their circles.
That’s in part why Fabu came to us with her mission “to place poetry in unusual places.” Sure, I’d prefer our magazine not be cast as an “unusual” venue for poetry. In a way that’s sad. And yet I don’t bemoan our heretofore lack of it. Instead I celebrate its place—a poet’s place—now, and in future issues of Mad Mag, as well as on our website.
Calling all poets.
Here’s how to find poetry all around you: www.madpoetry.org
In August Madison will host the Olympics of poetry slam, with 75 teams of poets from North America and Europe competing in venues around the city. http://nps2008.com/