The January Dispatch

In regards to Alexandra Petri’s terrible Washington Post column declaring poetry to be dead, gasp, have you heard? It’s my general policy to avoid mocking the afflicted, but Ms. Petri’s misplaced obituary in the wake of Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem was so ignorant and petulant, point by sophomoric point, I simply had to say something (or at least post a picture the Cash flipping the bird). Despite her irritating lack of knowledge on the subject of poetry, however, I think we can perhaps take some solace in her minor attentions, however indelicate. Bad press is good press, I’ve been led to believe, and poetry doesn’t get all that much positive limelight, despite its current thriving (all the handwringing and rending of hair to the contrary).

Here are three things that evidently don’t make very good news:

One, there are many successful and critically respected presses and magazines (hundreds!) dedicated, at least in part, to the endeavors of…

…two, a great many successful and critically respected poets. Some of these even manage to make a decent enough living from the maligned endeavor. I’m one of them, though like many, I’ve had to cobble a few things together to make it work. It’s not made me or anyone else I know personally wealthy, but that strikes me as neither a particularly pitiable fate nor historically unprecedented.

And three, the existence of at least enough hungry and eager readers to make this whole obsolete poetry affair quite the little party, despite itself. I would note here that in 2012, across our various print and digital platforms, [PANK] had a readership of at least 382,555 people in well over 100 different countries. That’s conservative. And we’re hardly alone among literary magazines in our small successes.

Responses to Ms. Petri, of course, have been quick, many, and shrill. We are a sensitive lot, us dead poets, so very delicate in our feelings. By the time my dispatch goes live you’ll have little need for more from me on this subject. There was a very good response, I thought, from Coldfront editor-in-chief, John Deming. To my taste, however, my indefatigable friend and distinguished colleague, Matt Bell, wrapped it up on Facebook most succinctly:

“Hey, another terrible article about how poetry is dead, by a person who watched the inauguration but otherwise can’t name a more contemporary poem than ‘Howl.’ Thankfully, poets and readers, you don’t ever have to take advice on poetry from someone whose byline claims they ‘put the pun in punditry.’ Because clearly anyone who announces her presence in this way is not going to be a person who knows anything about language or what it can or cannot do.”

Consider taking a look at Eric Sasson’s Wall Street Journal column reflecting on Mr. Blanco’s inaugural poem. I probably should have spent this dispatch praising Mr. Sasson’s article instead of tearing down Ms. Petri’s. Alas, I am a poet, after all, and I’m too desperate to help myself. If nothing else, it’s probably wise to remember amidst this latest tempest in a teapot and beyond that literature in one form or another is perpetually and forever almost dead. Long live the king.

If you’re still fretting, however, you may find some additional relief in knowing that [PANK]’s horizon is chock-a-block with thriving goodness that we can’t wait to share with you. Here’s a snapshot of a few things to come:

PANK 8, our latest print edition is nigh, featuring cover art from Lori Nix and new writing from Meagan Cass, Kristina Marie Darling, Portia Elan, Joshua Gottlieb-Miller, Ashley Inguanta, Jane Loechler, Kevin Maloney, Delaney Nolan, Sara Slaughter, Meg Thompson, Brian Whalen, and others. Order yours here.

Our February digital edition (8.2) will feature new writing from Eiko Alexander, Nuncio Casanova, Kallie Falandays, Joanna Hoffman, Alexander Lumans, Tara Mae Mulroy, Daniel Olivas, Jenny Sadre-Orafai, Michael Royce, Bret Shepard, Dawn Sperber, Marcelina Viczarra, and Allison Wyss.

In the March digital edition (8.3) look for new writing from Sara Backer, Michelle Bailat-Jones, Marty Cain, Jim Daniels, Robert Glick, Liv Lansdale, Tanya Olson, Christopher Perez, Jennifer Pilch, Matt Rowan, Fred Sasaki, and Jasmine Sawyers.

Also coming up in March is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Boston. This year [PANK] will be teaming up with Barrelhouse, Hobart, and friends for a party, the Not Reading, on Thursday night of the conference. As promised, no readings, no literary shenanigans, just a lot of writers and editors and friends and family gathering to say hello, catch up, and do a little carousing. If you’re attending this year, put it on your dance card, and don’t forget to stop by one of our book fair tables to pick up your free drink tickets. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing you there.

Further down the road in April, [PANK] will host two Invasion Readings, one in Minneapolis with our friends at Paperdarts Magazine, the other at KGB Bar in New York. Details forthcoming soon.

And changes, changes, changes are afoot for us! We’re very excited about a print redesign for PANK 9. But y’all might be even more interested to know that [PANK] intends to begin paying all magazine contributors, both print and online, in 2014. It’s unlikely to be much to begin with so keep your rumor mongering modest, but it’ll be a start. Make sure you’re encouraging your friends to subscribe. If you’re a submitting writer, consider using the tip jar.

Put all that in your pipe and smoke it, Ms. Petri. Until next time, dear readers and writers, keep your chins up!


M. Bartley Seigel is founding editor of [PANK]. He is the author of THIS IS WHAT THEY SAY (Typecast, 2012) and his writing has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, H_NGM_N, Forklift Ohio, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. You can follow him at or contact him at