Amy Newman’s poetry probes the natural order, investigating its surfaces and rhythms as a way of finding a handle on the mysteries that loom over the created world. She finds intimations of paradise, the “First World,” everywhere, both in its presence and in its absence. She marvels at natural rituals, writing of birds, “They howl barks of flight into a migratory V / a pattern they agree upon because they know their world” and of deer, “To draft their winter history alive, / they follow that which thickens them to being.” This sense of a pattern in the world around us, endemic but elusive, echoes and fuels Newman’s sense of the sacred. In her must-read 2005 essay “Wondering Thomas,” Newman discusses portrayals of the sacred in art: “As humans we operate under the assumption that the sacred is not as ordinary as we, and that it therefore should be enhanced like a CGI. We can’t bear to imagine that we might miss it…. Can we ever really portray the world as it is, as we feel it, with the full sense of the unseen as unseen?” Newman herself is constantly calling back to the unseen, not only by tracing mystery in creation, but also by questioning the realities of language itself in a sort of poetic kenosis—her third collection, fall, was composed of 72 poems redefining its one-word title. This dance between seen and unseen, mystery and physical reality, frequently becomes playful—Danny Leigh of The Guardian says that “Newman’s wit is addictive.” We say that there’s not much more we could ask for in a poet—to track the tidal rhythms of faith with wit and keen observation, marking humanity’s place between wondering and knowing as holy ground.
Dear Editor, winner of the 2010 Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Prize (Persea), fall (Wesleyan),Camera Lyrica (Alice James), and Order or Disorder (Cleveland State), and two chapbooks: BirdGirl Handbook (GreenTower) and The Sin Sonnets (Scantily Clad). Her work has received awards including the GreenTower Press/The Laurel Review Prize, the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Prize, the Beatrice Hawley Award, and The Missouri Review Perkoff Prize, and has appeared in many journals in North America and Europe, including The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, Image, The Gettysburg Review, The Georgia Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, The Laurel Review, Timpul, Acoma and Poesia. She’s been awarded state arts grants from Illinois and Ohio, and a Fellowship from The MacDowell Colony. Founding editor of Ancora Imparo, a journal of art, process, and remnant, she’s Presidential Research Professor at Northern Illinois University.
Dear Editor is a collection of poems written in the form of such submission letters to an invisible editor. In each letter the writer’s desire, wonder, and personal history overtake what can be a generic format as she becomes increasingly focused on this unseeable, omnipotent editor. The writer shares her explorations with the editor: she’s frustrated with metaphor, tormented by high school, and interested in the girl saints she learns of from her grandmother, especially their ability to break into blossom as a response to bullying. She admires that ability, and her letters become increasingly concerned with what it means to persevere in spite of the silences she encounters, to quietly continue in the private monologue—what she fervently hopes is a dialogue—she has begun. It’s her discipline, her practice, her custom, like prayer: the rosary or penance, moving from repetition into reverberation and resonance, into, she hopes, a sound driven back, a sound returned.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.