Essays, News

David Biespiel: Pssst… A New Era Dawning for Poetry Northwest

Dear Friends:

Arriving on our office doorstep today are a dozen cardboard boxes filled with copies of the newest issue of Poetry Northwest. It sports a sensational cover with art work by our staff artist, Philip Sylvester. As a nod to the magazine’s original legacy as a poetry-only journal for over four decades, I had intended this issue to be an all-poetry issue, and my staff has cringed every time I made the lame joke, “How’s The Poetry Issue coming?”

In the end, though, I included a piece of prose, composed by yours truly, called “A Sense of Form and a Sense of Life.” It begins, “In your hands is my last issue as editor of this magazine…” Even though that opening is now in print, it’s also still sealed in cellophane in those cardboard boxes, because I want to announce the details about my departure to you first, privately, prior even to the release of a national press release. To tell you, that is, before this issue is distributed around the nation and internationally. Tell you, our contributors, subscribers, submitters of poems, allies, and, yes, sometimes wise critics of our omissions, typos, and wackier features.

When I became editor of the magazine in 2005, three years after the original Poetry Northwest shuttered its doors after having published quarterly, without interruption, from 1959-2002, I was enormously touched by the outpouring of faith, good wishes, and support for this new incarnation of an American poetry institution. The effort was advanced by a fabulous staff, a generous board of directors, and good advice from a smart advisory board. I’m grateful to them all. Just as important, your participation as readers, contributors, and interested poets, has been enlivening and sustaining. To you, then, I say, thank you.

While I’ll formally serve as editor until the end of the year, the newly-appointed and de facto editor now is poet Kevin Craft, who will officially assume command of the magazine in January 2010. Author of Solar Prominence and chair of the English Department at Everett Community College north of Seattle, Kevin’s connection to this magazine is long. He has been a contributor to these pages (two new poems appear in the current issue), a student of the magazine’s former, long-time, and legendary editor David Wagoner, and he is a dynamic presence in the vibrant Seattle poetry scene, and beyond.

Should you wish to submit poems for consideration to the magazine this fall, please mail them according to our guidelines to the magazine’s soon-to-be new home at: Poetry Northwest, c/o Kevin Craft, Everett Community College, 2000 Tower Street, Everett, WA 98201. Plans are in the works for the magazine to accept online submissions only in the near future. To keep up with that development, please check the website,, during the next few weeks.

What will I do next? I’m at work on my next book of poems. I’m also organizing my nearly ten years of newspaper columns about poetry into a book collection and writing another book about inspiration and creativity for writers called The Little Red Book (I know, I know, but I figure if it’s good enough for Mao it’s good enough for me). I continue to direct the Attic Writers’ Workshop (, now in its 10th year, and which is assisting more and more writers with private, one-on-one manuscript consultation services that get results. And, as some of you know, there’s the daily political pieces I write for Politico ( where I have the sometimes difficult pleasure of knocking heads with the likes of anti-tax dude Grover Norquist and former Bush Administration press secretary Dana Perino, among other current and former members of Congress, strategists, and legal scholars over issues of national policy and politics.

Plus, there’s this exciting news: I have a brand new book of poems published just this month called The Book of Men and Women. I hope you’ll run out and buy a copy right now by going here: I’d be so honored by that. And, you know, too (you can’t see it, but the publicist for the book is leaning heavily over my shoulder right now, ordering me to say…) I’m available to come to your city, town, performance hall, or campus to talk about poetry, the poet’s relationship to civic life, and/or give a reading during the next couple of years. Should it be of interest to you, I would be delighted to accept an invitation, and I’d be grateful for it, too. Plus: We’d have fun. What I mean is, I hope you’ll stay in touch. Here is my e-mail, to show you that I’m serious: Feel free to friend me on Facebook, and all that. I mean it.

For now, I would ask you to do four things:

1. Submit your poems to Kevin!

2. Send a Letter to the Editor to the magazine describing your feelings about the 50-year history of Poetry Northwest, whether it’s about the past era, the present incarnation, or a future one. You can do this online at

3. Support the new editorial staff of Poetry Northwest by subscribing today at I need your help to cook up a surge in readership before I depart.

4. And, please, please, consider making a tax-deductible donation to Poetry Northwest this year. Send your contribution to our current address in Portland: 4232 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97215 between now and December 31.

Finally, thanks again for being part of this experience with me. But, can I just say this to you…I’m most looking forward to what you do next. I want to hear about your literary news, endeavors, or crazy schemes to beam poems via satellite into the far reaches of the Milky Way. Plus, from time to time, I hope to receive a random note of good will from you about the weather in your corner of the world.

Since I’ve been editor here, I’ve frequently been asked to represent the magazine–and by extension, represent the art of poetry–at various events and gatherings. Not always having something new to say, I find myself repeating the following words or something like them at many of these occasions. While we are all aware that in these trying times we may be feeling overwhelmed with thoughts of the world coming to an end (well, okay…I used to say that during the Bush Administration) or just concerned with rising prices or cuts in public school funding or just realizing that we work too hard and contemplate what it means to be alive too little, I want you to know that one thing is certain in a difficult world: Poetry is permanent. There has always been poetry. No civilization that we know about lacked poets or poetry. And if the day comes that there is no poetry, that’s the day it’ll get invented.

Stay in touch, friends.

With best wishes,

David Biespiel


P.S. For you Portlanders…On October 18 at 4pm, I’ll be giving a reading from my new book at Powell’s on Hawthorne, with a book party to follow afterward at the Sapphire Hotel. Hope to see you there.

Read David’s farewell commentary.


To contact David Biespiel

p: 503.963.8783


New Poetry Northwest Address

Everett Community College
2000 Tower Street
Everett, WA 98201