That poetry be raised to a pulpit of freedom and then celebrated as a picaresque exploration of innate creativity slanders its name!
In my view, license is the first thing a police officer wants to see to identify you by – can you imagine what the officer who asks for your creative license intends!? Free verse: not a form but an exclamation – free verse! – an ongoing rally of incarcerated language to chance, the void, the future.
Discussions of constraint in poetic history often pertain to medium, frequently the page, events in poetic history articulating medium as a fundamental constraint. ‘[L]e vide papier que la blancheur defend’, ‘the white / Paper which the void leaves undefiled’, from Stéphane Mallarmé’s ‘Brise Marine’ (‘Sea Breeze’), is one of many examples of Mallarme’s rarefications of the white page. John Cage’s conceptualism is similarly rudimentary, and situates the constraint of artistic experiment as interlocutor of the unforeseeable: ‘An experimental action is one the outcome of which is not foreseen.’
Is poetry’s key constraint the page? Or chance? Is it the concept, the idea? Or is it the physical? Ecological? Spiritual? Political? Circumstantial?
The experimental and the conceptual are not preferred poetic modes for submission. I invoke them here because they exemplify the most literal commentary on constraint and poetic practice.
Instead, my hope is you will write out of constraints personal and impersonal, sublime and stupid, abstract and creaturely. For some, this may be the moment to indulge in the constraint of formal verse. Crafting new claustrophobia through a sestina, a mesostic, or an Oulipean exercise like ‘N + 7’, is welcome. But the motif of constraint is also a repository of modern discontent: the panopticon, the shopping mall, the mind, the detention centre. Rimbaud thought even the I-voice was a poetic constraint, an-other.
I hope you’ll use this issue as an opportunity to intensify your work’s relationship to a constraint or constraint as such, admit its medium, and conjure a smile or grimace from its textual prison. Constrain yourself to submission!
Please submit only once, with a maximum of three (3) poems in one document (1) … but first, please read the submission guidelines.