- There must be great audiences too”—Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, by David Ben-Merre
In 1911, Harriet Monroe persuaded a hundred Chicagoans to pledge $50 a year, for five years, to support a poetry magazine. With that guarantee, she founded Poetry: A Magazine of Verse in 1912, and it is still going today. Its motto was a quotation from Walt Whitman that appeared on the back of almost every issue: “To have great poets there must be great audiences too.” To that end Monroe not only published the best modern poetry she could find, but also used the pages of the magazine for debate and discussion about the forms and content of poetry proper for a modern age. She published poems by Ezra Pound, who became her foreign correspondent, and such other poets as Yeats, Eliot, Stevens, Williams, Frost, Sandburg, Masters, Robinson, Lowell, Flint, Aldington, H. D., and many others, introducing new poets to the world and helping to revive an art many people thought had no place in modern culture. As she put it herself, “Somewhere I have read a quaint old myth of a goblin who, blowing the fog out of his face, started a tempest which went careering around the world. Now and then I feel like that goblin. Is it possible that less than four years ago poetry was ‘the Cinderella of the arts’? Already a great wind is blowing her ashes away, and on the horizon are rolling dust-clouds which may conceal a coach and four—or is it an automobile?” (Poetry 8:3 140). It may have been a jet. In any case, we are all in her debt for blowing away the fog around poetry in 1912.
The Modernist Journals Project would like to thank the University of Chicago Library, which kindly provided us with most of the actual copies of Poetry magazine that are digitally reproduced here.