Dear Friends and Readers,
A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.
– W. H. Auden
When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.
– John F. Kennedy
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
– Emily Dickinson
Poetry is the mother-tongue of the human race.
– Johann Georg Hamann
How grateful we are to have poetry in our lives! And what a privilege for the Rail to celebrate April Poetry Month with our Guest Critics Page! Last year, Bob Holman (a beloved poet and poetry activist for his work in the oral tradition, the spoken word, slam poetry, Bowery Poetry Club, Endangered Language Alliance, Language Matters, and much more) initiated the tradition of dedicating the April Critics Page to poetry. As the last line of his editorial put it: “Unfasten your seat belts. Art, politics, poetry, play, work, love—all ahead!”
It couldn’t have been more ideal or timely to welcome our Guest Critic for this year’s Poetry Issue, the legendary poet Anne Waldman (co-founder of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in 1966 and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado in 1974, among countless other things). Anne followed her electrifying reading of original poetry at our January Benefit Auction with an extraordinary Critics Page: she has gathered a constellation of luminaries that includes Eileen Myles, Anne Carson, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Lisa Jarnot, and many more. Anne is one of those vibrant, inimitable figures who enliven our community with their spirit and commitment: we are immeasurably grateful for her generosity.
The rotating Critics Page has become one of our journal’s most identifiable features—as another dear friend of the Rail (and April 2012 Guest Critic) Raphael Rubinstein wrote: “Having a new guest editor for each issue guarantees that there will be no entrenched power and that new points of view and different styles will be in continuous supply.”
Critics Page has offered our readers vital enthusiasm and surprise, as though each issue were a new journey of discovery. This ongoing rotation has indeed generated endless potential for us to experiment and play, to strengthen the very foundations on which the Rail was built over fifteen years ago.
It is in this spirit of transformation that our distinguished ArtSeen editors will pass the baton to a new Consulting Editorial Director. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to this incredible group of editors, who, after many years of dedicated work for the Rail, will be becoming Editors-at-Large. Managing Art Editors Kara L. Rooney, Charles Schultz, and Corina Larkin; and Associate Art Editors Chloe Wyma and Margaret Graham, have made (and, I am certain, will continue to make) incredibly significant contributions to the Rail and to our community, shaping the section into the diverse collection of criticism that it is today. Kara’s compelling interviews (including an indelible conversation with Kara Walker) and cerebral reviews; Charlie’s skill in conversing with artists of all stripes (and sometimes not even in the same language!); Corina’s gift for helping young writers cultivate their voices; Chloe’s scholarly, clear-eyed criticism; and Margaret’s evocative, perceptive, and lyrical style have each left their remarkable traces in the Rail’s pages. I see the journal’s growth as inextricably tied to their endless passion, dedication, and support. On behalf of all of us at the Rail, thank you.
I would also like to thank Walter Chiu, who, after many years, has moved on from his role as Creative Director. Not least among Walter’s innumerable contributions was his work in crafting our layout, his continual influence on the evolving design of our journal, and the many handsome books of Rail Editions. Walter is immensely gifted and I have no doubt that his next journey will be equally adventurous and fulfilling. Our deepest gratitude goes to Walter for his insightful and sensitive eye. He will be missed.
Meanwhile, I would like to congratulate the Rail’s own Maggie Barrett, who will be taking up the mantle and leading our design team as Art Director; she will be assisted by our longtime Production and Curatorial Assistant Yasaman Alipour, also in a new role, as Digital Art Director. Congratulations, too, to our Books co-editor, Joseph Salvatore, and his wife Jessica Radin, on the birth of their son, Ezra. Lastly, I’d like to thank our board members, who under the wise and composed leadership of board president Chris Apgar, have guided the Rail into its next phase of ebullient growth and sustainability.
P.S. This issue is dedicated to those injured and killed in Lahore and Brussels by violent ideologies.
PHONG BUI is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.