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By Mia


When it comes to elaborating the whims, aims, mission statement, or hoped- for success of Tryst, I begin to choke. Stating the obvious, “Tryst is a quarterly online poetry journal seeking quality work” is easy enough. But, let's face it: An intro like that is about the laziest, most lame excuse for a poetry zine that says nothing and promotes extinction. This is when I realize that it's time to change hats from editor to writer and write from the perspective of a reader—but not just any reader. A well-read, widely- read, educated writer would probably be the most ideal person for the job as the editor of most zines. But, as the editor of Tryst, I feel a responsibility to consider all forms of artwork, “poetry” from the perspective of the everyday, public person. I want the work to click with the street worker taking a break for lunch. In other words, I want the work presented in Tryst to appeal to the general public who is hungry for “art” for the sake of art and not for its secrets, its transgressions, or fertilization for rhetorical essays. I imagine a mother who has just put her child down for a nap has about five minutes to go online and grab a poem, or a photo before being snapped back to “reality”; the struggling writer looking for inspiration; the lecturer on his way to a conference needing some citations for his speech; the filmmaker digging for a script; the scholar researching material for his papers; the artist seeking the company of his peers.

While I want Tryst to be entertaining, I don't want people to view Tryst, or poetry, as the “reader's digest” of contemporary poetry/art. Making poetry accessible to the public does not mean that poetry becomes the stuff of mainstream, or a how-to-guide for flatliners. I believe there has to be a balance between poetry floating on mediocrity and slipping into near oblivion. Perhaps, Muriel Rukeyser expressed some of these concerns best in her book, The Life of Poetry. The following excerpt is from “Chapter One: Fear of Poetry.#&148:
In speaking about poetry, I must say at the beginning that the subject has no acknowledged place in American life today. Poetry is foreign to us, we do not let it enter our daily lives. We can see its expression, and we can see its effects upon us. We can see our own conflict and our own resource if we look, now, at this art, which has been made of all the arts the one least acceptable.
Since childhood, to many of us poetry has become a matter of distaste. The speaking of poetry is one thing: one of the qualifications listed of an announcer on a great network, among “voice” and “correct pronunciation,” is the “ability to read and interpret poetry.”

But what is the nature of this distaste? If you ask your friends about it, you will find that there are a few answers, repeated by everyone. One is that the friend has not the time for poetry. This is a curious choice, since poetry, of all the arts that live in time music, theater, film, writing is the briefest, the most compact. Or your friends may speak of their boredom with poetry. If you hear this, ask further. You will find that “boredom” is a masking answer, concealing different meanings.
One person will confess that he has been frightened off forever by the dry dissection of lines in school, and that now he thinks with disappointment of a poem as simply a set of constructions. He expects much more. One will confess that, try as he will, he cannot understand poetry, and more particularly, modern writing. It is intellectual, confused, unmusical. One will say it is willfully obscure. One that it is inapplicable to the situation in which he finds himself. And almost any man will say that it is effeminate: it is true that poetry as an art is sexually suspect.
Then the task of ensuring the integrity of poetry, I feel, falls not only on the shoulders of the wordsmith, but the editor, publisher and the academia, as well. This is to say that the responsibility should not fall on the shoulders of the public. Art is not based upon supply and demand. I don't think we need to feed the public poetry that is laced with amphetamines or barbiturates. Even rap has more integrity than poetry that does not come by its merits honestly. In her book, Viper Run, from the essay, “Against Decoration,” Mary Karr lodges two complaints against contemporary poetry:

1) Absence of emotion. What should I as a reader feel. This grows from but is not equivalent to what the speaker/author feels. Questioning a poem's central emotion steers me beyond the poem's ostensible subject and surface loveliness to its ultimate effect. Purely decorated poetry leaves me cold.

2) Lack of clarity. The forms of obscurity in decorative poetry are many and insidious: references that serve no clear purpose, for instance, or ornate diction that seeks to elevate a mundane experience rather than clarify a remarkable one. Lack of clarity actually alienates a reader and prevents any emotional engagement with the poem.
I couldn't have said it better or more eloquently than Karr, though I don't necessarily agree that all poetry be stripped of decoration in order to be clear; it could use some “accessorizing.” I value honest writing above all. Honest writing is simply that which is written from the brain attached to a heart: Skill dictated by the presence of some inner emotional hunger. Again, I shall defer to the wisdom of Rukeyser:

This response is total, but it is reached through the emotions. A fine poem will seize your imagination intellectually that is, when you reach it, you will reach it intellectually too but the way is through emotion, through what we call feeling.
Finally, while Tryst's success remains to be seen I encourage contributors to take chances, to avoid common pitfalls of imitating present-day luminaries and to seek one's truest vision, whatever that may be.

Some of my favorite poems (among many) are: “The Man with the Blue Guitar” by Stevens; “Among School Children” by Yeats; “Ozymandias” by Shelley; “Atalanta of Calydon” by Swinburne; “The Rubaiyat” by Omar Khayyam; “Radiance” by Kabir; “Ash Wednesday” by Eliot; “Lady Lazarus” and “Edge” by Plath; “The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator” by Sexton; “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias” by Lorca; “Variations on the Word 'Sleep'” by Atwood; “Midnight Salvage” by Adrienne Rich.