Both humanity and art thrive on change, and nowhere is this more readily observed than in the history of poetry. The Futurist movement, spearheaded by Marinetti’s Manifesto published in 1909, arose in Italy, with a similarly named movement arising in Russia around the same time. Surrealism, led by Andre Breton and springing from Dadaism, took root in France a few years later in the aftermath of World War I. Both to some extent called for a “rejection of past forms of expression” and an “emphasis on the power of unconscious thought.” Both were, unsurprisingly, also allied to radical political movements, mostly on the left, but also, in the case of Italian Futurism, on the far right.
Thus, even before Ezra Pound coined the modernist slogan, “Make It New,” a broad avant garde tradition was developing in Europe. Since then, of course, diverse artists, musicians and even cul- tural historians have annexed Pound’s phrase to epitomize the necessity for the development and progress of ideas.
Similarly, a journal such as The Raintown Review can’t permit itself to stand still. I sincerely regret that only one issue of Raintown was published in 2013, and for this you have our deepest apologies, in addition to our assurances that subscribers will not lose out, since subscriptions are entirely issue-based, not time-related. (In case you are interested in the reasons for such delay, allow me to cite one wedding and two book launches—Quincy’s Heimat and my own Sisters & Courtesans—and leave it there.)
But this congruence of circumstances has happily led to the next big change—the creation of a new assistant editorship position here at Raintown, with Jeff Holt joining us to help manage the ever- increasing slush pile and to bring a fresh perspective to the editorial board. Jeff has been a frequent contributor to Raintown, and in this issue you can read one final poem of his, "All Fall Down," accepted before he joined the editorial staff.
It is however worth returning briefly to Pound to examine his famous words more closely. “Make It New” is often cited by the self-proclaimed heirs of the modernists as an excuse for self-styled “radical” artistic jumps such as L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry and atonal jazz—branches of the avant garde that could be accused of lacking the important connection to contemporary social movements seen in their earlier forbears.
Furthermore, this is actually the complete opposite of what Pound intended. As Louis Menand points out in his searching article, “The Pound Error,” in the New Yorker, “the ‘It’ in ‘Make It New’ is the Old—what is valuable in the culture of the past.” Pound’s Cantos are the best example of this. While often impenetrable, the collage of literary allusions, with its snippets of foreign languages and heavy historical backdrop, represents an attempt to perfect and synthesize, rather than to undermine, our cultural heritage.
Thanks to his deplorable association with the undesirable social movements of fascism and anti-Semitism, Pound will always be a controversial figure, while the Cantos themselves are ultimately a failed experiment, but the ethos of “Make It New” can be seen in action in the decision-making processes of Raintown’s new triumvirate. (I have always wanted to use that word!)
We do not reject poems out of hand for being written strictly in forms that have survived many centuries—this issue contains, among various forms, a villanelle as well as many fine sonnets–as long as there is something original or innovative about the content or technique. On the other hand we are not averse to well-written free verse, such as Hannah Hackney’s “Motel.” In other words, we think that rhyme and rhythm are of intrinsic although not inevitable value.
Where we would like to see more change, please, subscrib- ers and contributors, is in the eclectic nature of your subject matter. No subject should be out of bounds for poetry on either a micro or macro level. Or perhaps I should say, in an attempt to redeem Pound’s magpie style from his politics by stealing lines from our best-known Jewish-American female sonneteer: “ Give us your weird, your forward,/Your huddled iambs yearning to breathe free...
Volume 12 Issue 2 >