GENESIS OF OUR POETRY JOURNAL
Although the idea of The American Aesthetic was conceived nearly 35 years ago, it was not until a poem titled "Interfaces" appeared in Oxford's Balliol College Annual Record in 2013 that a decision was made to finally launch this online poetry journal. After decades of witnessing the decline of contemporary English-language poetry in America and abroad, we viewed Australian Des Clark-Walker's new poem as a reason to hope that there might be others of similar quality out there, awaiting discovery. (The Editor)
OVERVIEW AND PROPOSAL
As an online poetry journal, The American Aesthetic has had a great five + year run, including an average of 500 unique visitors per week! We've had an incredible array of wonderfully gifted poets and artists. All of them have been remarkably generous in allowing our journal to feature their poetry and artwork without remuneration.
But now is the time for a change. First: All poets must receive payment of $20-$25 for a single poem. Second: All artists must receive $20-$50 for their artwork (depending on size and placement). Third: Operating expenses such as site management, domain name, editorial assistance, prize money, advertising, and securing non profit status through fiscal sponsorship must be paid for.
OBJECTIVES OF THE AMERICAN AESTHETIC
To better understand the objectives of The American Aesthetic, one must first understand what prompted the creation of this poetry journal in the first place.
Since the late 1960s, we have witnessed a striking decline in both the quality as well as the popularity of poetry in America. Doubtless many would say that the reasons for this decline are varied and complex. Some might assert that the fault lies with education; others, that the problem lies with a general apathy (a lack of vision and hope in the future). There are even those who believe poetry’s decline is the logical outcome of the remorseless political, cultural, and even spiritual disillusionment precipitated by the Vietnam War.
Though the modern poetry establishment may disagree that the quality of poetry in America has diminished over the last half century, surely they cannot deny that public interest in poetry has lessened considerably during this period; indeed, in a October 2013 edition of American Public Television’s “News Hour Poetry Series,” both American Poet Laureate Billy Collins and his interviewer, Jeffrey Brown, seemed to say as much:
JEFFREY BROWN: You’re one of a handful of poets who -- who -- who I guess we could think of as public poets in our culture, which is not noticeably open to poetry all that much, right? What’s your sense of it?
BILLY COLLINS: . . . Well, now I would say at any given moment in American life, there are probably 45 poets in airplanes vectoring across the country heading towards . . .
JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a funny image for -- when we usually think nobody’s reading poetry, but you’re saying poets are crisscrossing America . . .
BILLY COLLINS: . . . I don’t know if anyone’s reading it [poetry], but poets are still flying around the country going from lectern to lectern.
Although there are many more poets publishing today than ever before in human history, there are proportionately far fewer people actually reading their poems. Billy Collins, in his latest book, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, chooses to blame it on the competition:
The trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry, more guppies crowding the fish tank.
One could only wish that Billy Collins had more courageously added “and more bad poetry crowding the fish tank.” For the brutal truth is: it’s not the quantity of poets that matters, but rather the quality of their compositions.
Thus, in the cause of countering this glut of unpopular poetry—possibly even upending the fish tank, so to speak--The American Aesthetic has established three primary goals or objectives:
- Objective 1: To search for poetry that will once again engage the general public’s interest; poetry that will seem more meaningful and relevant to their everyday lives—much as a good song, a good play, a good movie, a good book, or a good lecture or sermon might seem meaningful and relevant to their lives.
- Objective 2: To at least attempt to devise the methodology or criteria for determining what is a good poem. “Gerontion,” “Lycidas,” “All In Green Went My Love Riding,” and “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” are all great poems—but how do we know that? A certain theatrical quality? A certain musicality? A certain vision or purpose—an agenda even? What insights gained from reanalyzing the poetry of the past might be useful in evaluating new and contemporary poetry? And, in all of this, how much credence should we give to the innate aesthetic judgement?
- Objective 3: To create a forum, platform, nexus to bring a certain caliber of poets together in one place. That this gathering or convergence of poets might not only engage the interest of the reading public but also serve to acquaint individual poets with other poets who might otherwise have remained unknown to them, and with whom (one hopes) they might find common ground.
Rewards: One Song and Three Posters.
SONG: "Who's Asking?" from a five-song EP album by Francie Jones.
- POSTER 1: "Pumpkin Boat" 11X17 inches (Shipped to USA only). Printable digital file available for overseas.
- POSTER 2: "Lemon Study" 11X17 inches (Shipped to USA only). Printable digital file available for overseas.
- POSTER 3: "After the Squall" 11X17 inches (Shipped to USA only). Printable digital file available for overseas.
Risks and challenges
The main risk is that, despite enhanced funding, The American Aesthetic will not become popular enough to effectively challenge the current poetry establishment—which comprises 80 to 90% of literary magazines, the Poet Laureate selection committee, and much of academia. Paying our poets and artists, expanding our outreach through advertising, attaining non-profit status so that we can receive grants, may in the end not be enough to stem the tide of mediocre writing; that is to save 21st century poetry from essentially becoming a dumping ground (or catch all) for bad writing.
At any rate, until the end, we will remain steadfast to our mission statement, which says:
"The American Aesthetic is a quarterly journal searching for poetry that conveys in its very composition—as well as in the sound, cadence, and possibly even musicality of its words—an expression of honesty and purpose that somehow rings true."Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (40 days)