TENTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE: A Tribute
to Guest Editors
Saundra Rose Maley
"When Kim Roberts asked me to guest edit the Whitman Issue to commemorate
the 150th anniversary of Whitman’s first edition of Leaves
of Grass, I was enthusiastic. Kim, Michael Degman
(who served as an intern at that time), and I had a great time putting
that issue together, choosing the poems and talking about Whitman.
I had first learned of Whitman’s poetry in high school, then studied
it in more depth in a few college courses—I remember Peter
Van Egmond, then a young professor at the University of Maryland,
reading Whitman’s poems to the class, excited about them, passionate.
He even told us a story about doing research in Whitman’s papers
at the Library of Congress and finding a tiny hair caught between some
manuscript pages. He imagined it was from Whitman’s beard. That
story of Whitman’s whisker was the closest I came to seeing Whitman
as a real live human being until I attended a lecture given by Martin
Murray, president of the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman,
documenting the poet’s ten years in this city, during and after
the Civil War. I am a native Washingtonian and never knew that Whitman
lived here. Martin’s talk brought Whitman home to me.
While preparing the introduction for the Beltway issue, I reread
Whitman’s early raw poems and pored over his sprawling, exuberant
(and neglected) preface to the 1855 edition. It rang in my ears! Whitman’s
passion for America, for poetry, for the poets to come spurred me on
to a renewed dedication to my own poetry. After working with Kim and
Michael, I started writing a poem I called “Arguing with Walt
Whitman”—I never finished that particular poem but the experience
of re-reading Whitman pushed me into some new territory. When Stanley
Kunitz died in 2006, I reread his article on Whitman and it
led me to write a poem in which Whitman and Kunitz come together.
Working on that Beltway issue renewed my spirit somehow and
sent me back to the heart of what I love…."
From the Editor:
Although I had known Saundra for a number of years, it wasn't until
we served together on the planning committee of the 2005 festival
"DC Celebrates Whitman: 150 Years of Leaves of Grass,"
sponsored by the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman, that we really
got to know one another well. I admire Saundra for her ability to
balance a creative life with a scholarly one (where Saundra has distinguished
herself most notably with her work on the poet James Wright).
I invited her to co-edit the Whitman
Issue with me because I knew I could learn something from her
about care and precision in the editing process. Saundra has been
involved with Beltway Poetry since its first year of publication.
In addition to her work on the Whitman issue, she was featured in
the very first issue edited by a guest, Merrill
Leffler's issue of Fall of 2000 (The
Distinguishing Voice), and most recently appeared in the Museum
Issue (guest edited by Maureen
STANLEY KUNITZ AT THE PEARLY GATES, GREETED BY WALT WHITMAN
So Walt, it’s you who greets me at this hour
.............as once, in a dream
You brought a glass of milk
.............and waited till I slept
Forgive my early measure of your song
.............windy, I thought, inelegant
Yet I followed your lead, stood up
.............for the stupid and crazy
Never argued about God, took off my hat
Love, strange word, like roses
.............I could not sleep
Poised for my father’s return
.............I looked too long at stars
Glad to go, he did not wait to meet
.............his only son
A pastel portrait, snatched from me
A slap that burned my cheek,
.............her only explanation
Tell me this is heaven, Walt,
.............that I came along the proper
I stand before you, at last,
.............done with my changes
Beauty is a sweet fruit, the poet
Told the young woman as he bit
Into an orange wedge at the human level
Of tooth and tongue, and truth is in the tasting.
He carefully placed two fingers
And a thumb on the stem
Of the wine glass before him—she rose
Cradling a notebook in her arms.
Her poem lay on the table between them—
Hours of fallen fruit, slow and blue as plums.
Saundra Rose Maley is co-editor of A
Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright and of Solitary
Apprenticeship: James Wright and German Poetry. She teaches at
Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland.
in Volume 11, Number 1, Winter 2010.
more by this author:
Saundra Rose Maley
to Vol. 6, No. 1, The Whitman Issue (Winter 2004)
Maley: Museum Issue