This to the poetry editor of The New Republic:
I pick up, by fiat, the May 20, '09, edition of The New Republic to discover the little vapid piece, "Perfect Repose" by Mark Doty. Here the educated observer turns his clinical shutter onto a school of sea lions, credibly describing (one assumes) from the planks of a pier, their "effortless oscillations" through sea water. One can imagine the collective "Ah!" of the audience at the final lines, "I mean thou/all breathe in again at once." "Ah!" they exhale tapping liberated fingers on forehead.
What we have here is a gliding slice of surfaces, a little curving carve-up of the external canvas, serving as nothing more than an interlude or pleasing public service announcement between crucial human stories, and as such is a cowardly act. I would not like to be in relationship with Mr. Doty, as he evidently would trivialize, deflect, or ignore conflict and resolution. He would, instead, rhapsodize on a flight of starlings or a field of wind blown grasses. To being asked to discuss his inability to love, he would respond by beautifully describing blackberry-stained fingertips.
Sir or Madam, poetry is art and art is urgency, significance, shock, disclosure, pain, peeling back surfaces, prophesy. Any dolt could describe the ballet of sea-lions and many dolts have. Rather than blindly following the blind--in this case blind poetry editor following blind book publisher into the void of vapidity, I ask you to open your eyes to the powerful possibilities of poetry, no less an art than sculpture, painting, architecture, music, all of which do nothing if they do not haul the self-satisfied into themselves for a little cold appraisal.
I suggest you ditch the careerists such as Mark Doty, and look a little deeper, on you own. Try for instance, my own selected poems, "Gordon Massman, The Essential Numbers, 1991-2008, just published from Tarpaulin Sky Press, one of dozens of literary presses which have the courage and independence to champion serious art. Had you the editorial maturity, I would direct you to http://www.tarpaulinsky.com/ for a look.