By Victor D. Infante
We’ve become accustomed to the same, facile discussions of poetry being repeated, ad nauseum: “Is slam poetry really poetry?” (Yes); “Does poetry have to originate from a university program?” (No); “Are MFA programs valuable?” (Yes); Is rap a form of poetics (Yes); “Is poetry on the Internet as valuable as poetry printed in a journal?” (Yes) “Can poetry be political?” (Yes); “Is criticism dead?” (No); “Is flarf really poetry?” (Damned if I know.)
We skim around the surface of these questions, skirting deeper issues of why these poetics have emerged in the way they have, avoiding more salient questions about the evolution of language; about how our poetry and technology interact; about the effect our institutions have on what is perceived as valuable poetry; about how race, class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity are reflected in a poem; and about how they effect the perception of a given piece of writing.
We go around in circles, because retreading territory, in a lot of ways, is safe, and allows us to blithely carry on with our preconceptions and agendas. We stake our claims to a small corner of poetics, and pretend – as much as is possible – that whatever other poetics exist are somehow something different, retreating into simplistic dualism: “Yes/No,” “Good/Bad,” “White/Black,” “Political/Literary,” “Slam/Academic.” And increasingly, the world scratches at our windows, telling us that reality isn’t quite so simple.
This, then, is Radius, an online literary journal in blog format dedicated to poetry: how it works, how it connects. Radius works from the assumption that, no mater how dissimilar and seemingly alien disparate poetics and poetic ideas may seem, they are indeed part of the same spectrum, and that lines can be drawn between them; that there are threads to be found between Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson; the Modernists, Beats, Confessionalists and Slammers; the poetry in a given issue of The Paris Review and the metrics of a rap.
Moreover, Radius works from the thesis that poetry actually lives in the world, that it has a role in politics and culture, and is not simply something that exists independently from people’s daily lives. A direct descendant of The November 3rd Club, an online literary journal of political writing, Radius is committed to the idea that poetry is political in a wide variety of ways, and can have a substantive presence in people’s lives.
Radius proposes that any given poem or body of poems connects to the art form as a whole, and to the culture at large, and that this crosscurrent of ideas is what ultimately propels the art form forward. Radius publishes poetry and prose that examines the connections between poets, between poetry and culture, and between the poetries of different cultures. Its intent is not to judge individual works of art – although sometimes, out of necessity, that will occur, as always happens when art moves into the public sphere – but rather to get beneath the skin of the art form, to better understand what makes it pulse and breathe.