Search Poems: Introduction by Cassie Lewis

1 January 2004

The Poem of the Day Project on the email discussion list Poetry Espresso started in December 2001, as a result of discussions on the list about starting our own anthology. Andrew Burke initially suggested the concept. We produced a 13-month series of anthologies each with a different editor, who selected a poem for each day of that month. Once per day a poem was posted to the list, often resulting in discussion. Some months there were fewer submissions, but the maximum was, obviously, 31 poems.

One of the covers used for the print
versions of the Poem of the Day series,
namely June 2002 (edited by SK Kelen).

We had 11 different editors in all – Pam Brown, Kristin Hannaford, Jill Jones, Lawrence Upton, Chris Mansell, S.K. Kelen, Michael Farrell, Andrew Burke, David Prater, Angela Gardner and myself – who either volunteered or were chosen on the basis of their level of involvement with the list. Espresso has a very large talent pool so poems were solicited from the list but also more widely – people asked friends and off-list poets to contribute.

The ethic of the selections was inclusive, as well as experimental. Each editor had the option of selecting a theme, setting the tone for the month. Editors in some cases also supplied artwork for the covers of the book versions that eventually resulted. (Notably, Pam Brown's drawing of a smoking mule, called “In Memory of Smoking”.)

After the first anthology had aired online I proposed that I start hand making limited editions of each month's anthology and mailing them out to contributors. I loved this process as I learned from scratch about typesetting, visual art and became really familiar with the poetry of other list members. These books were then mailed out to all corners of the globe, as well as to the archive at SUNY Buffalo, where Michael Basinski has kindly stored them for posterity.

During the course of the project its popularity grew, and the demand for the books – which I supplied free to both contributors and some interested friends – became to much for espresso's budget. So, regrettably, the last two collections – edited by Cordite's own David Prater and Michael Farrell, respectively – haven't seen the light of day in book form.

For this reason, I'm very happy that 'Search Poems' will appear online in this issue of Cordite.

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