By: T. M. Moore|Published: September 12, 2007 10:05 AM
"Poor poetry, it is the Darfur of twenty-first century literature. Everyone wants to do something about it, but nobody quite knows what is to be done."
So writes Joseph Epstein in The New Criterion (Sept. 2007). He is lamenting the literary Gresham's Law that has destroyed verse in our lifetime, replacing it with what "seems weightless, without gravity, free-floating, language flying around the joint." Too many poets, too many prizes for nonsense, too many journals that will publish just about anything that doesn't look like real poetry, too few rules. A wasteland.
But in the midst of this wasteland a few oases of real verse continue to refresh those who are willing to wade through the sand to find them, and, mirabile dictu, many of these oases are soundly Christian: the late Denise Levertov and Czeslaw Milosz, the very much alive Richard Wilbur, Wendell Berry, Scott Cairns, Joyce Sutphen, and Dana Gioia. "Poetry can do much, it's true," wrote Milosz, but you have to be willing to search out that which has sufficient gravity and grace to reward the search with lasting images, penetrating insights, and profound sentiments.