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Notes on This Issue

At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!

A philosopher, three science writers, a political candidate, a fiction writer, two critics and a filmmaker selected 39 poems for this first issue of Porlock. They also picked 24 poems they thought stood out among those they'd selected.

Staff editors winnowed submissions received last fall to 45 poems. Guest editors A. C. Grayling, Rebecca Priestley, Ferris Jabr, David Toomey, Zephyr Teachout, Adachioma Ezeano, Matthew Hanson, Sven Birkerts and Devorah Baum selected from those poems as many or as few as they wished. Editors were asked to exclude from consideration anyone they knew personally. Birkerts recused himself from considering poems by Amy Gerstler, a former colleague. Poems weren't selected collectively.

Rather than including poet bios and photographs, we've focused on poems and their readers. Below each poem we've listed the guest editors who selected it, italicizing the name of each editor who thought it stood out.

I was greatly encouraged by the responses of potential guest editors. I didn't know the nearly one hundred people I emailed and, with few exceptions, I didn't know if they had any interest in poetry. Nine generously volunteered to read poems and another sixteen liked this project, some very much, and might choose poems for future issues. Established journals should have no difficulty finding such editors. In adding a prize to this issue, I encountered a similar generosity among the poets and readers whose help I sought.

Porlock proposes a new standard of success for poems: their endorsement by disinterested and representative readers. A dozen such endorsements could certify a poet. Fewer readers may believe the audience for contemporary poetry has shrunk to the people who write it. How writers and artists are evaluated could change. Poets could make amends to a village defamed for two centuries.


After closing down the Robert Siegel Prize, I asked Porlock and Siegel participants and sympathizers to forward an email to potential Whitman’s Audience appraisers.


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