TENTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE: A Tribute
to Guest Editors
"To have contributed to this journal by editing one of its historical
issues has been a great honor. In my particular case I was given the
opportunity to explore through editorship the lives of the nation’s
Poets Laureate while in Washington, DC. These included among the finest
poets of their generation. They resided in this region and wrestled
with the role of a writer in the nation’s capitol at a time of
war and peace. They benefited from, wrestled with, and in some cases,
suffered under the federal bureaucracy. These are very Washingtonian
experiences. I am honored to have been able to contribute to the repository
of poetic DNA of place which is Beltway Poetry Quarterly. In
no small way I consider it the repaying of a debt.
I recognize my own work is enriched by a knowledge of place. For me
this was best expressed by Pablo Neruda in his poem
“We Are Many,” where he wrote of how the poet should “speak,
not of self, but of geography.” Geography, in this sense, is more
than just what now physically exists. It includes what came before,
what has been built up to sustain us now. It is the architecture that
holds and the lives and stories of those who came before. And in a place
which most of the world thinks of as politicians, two buildings and
a few monuments to the dead, a sense of place matters even more. We
must pay attention to writers to these matters because our work does
not exist in isolation. Otherwise we deny ourselves the comforting lineage
our lives reside in here in Washington. There were those who came before
you. They walked these streets and wrestled with many of the same concerns
We gain this sense of literary geography by learning the stories, by
reading them and listening to them and by asking questions of those
who came before us. We learn by paying attention and remaining curious.
In my own experience of living and writing in the Washington area I
have been helped immensely by the existence of this journal. The truth
is Beltway Poetry Quarterly has done more to help me knit together
a sense of place than any other publication I know of in the Washington
area. I feel grounded to this place because of this publication. I have
a sense of the flowering community of poets because of this publication.
I know the deep roots of this community of writers because of this publication.
I have an expanded understanding of the geographic lineage I am in,
as a writer who lives in this area, because of this publication. That
is to say I know my forebears because of Beltway Poetry Quarterly.
It is one thing to be told to pay attention to your surroundings as
a writer but another thing entirely to find the resources to ground
one self in Washington’s writerly past."
From the Editor:
Dan Vera is the only person in Beltway Poetry's ten years
to have guest-edited a literary history issue. His 2009 special issue
Poets Laureate is a terrific contribution to the journal. Dan
has been instrumental in the Beltway Poetry's efforts since
he moved to the area, generous in his willingness to brainstorm, to
steer me into new areas, and especially to encourage Beltway's
commitment to celebrating literary history. In addition to editing
Laureate issue, he wrote a terrific essay on the experiences of
four Laureates in particular (Joseph
Auslander, William Carlos Williams, James Dickey, and Maxine Kumin),
was a featured author in Winter
2006, and has contributed to several special issues: the Evolving
City issue, guest edited by Teri
Ellen Cross, the Split
This Rock Issue, guest edited by Regie
Cabico, and the Forebears
Issue. For the latter, he and I worked on a project over a two-year
span, researched and photographing houses of writers that still stand
in DC. We were able to document an incredible range of DC
Author's Houses, from boarding houses of Elizabeth
Bishop and Zora Neale Hurston, to the
apartment buildings of Ambrose Bierce and Ed
Cox, from the childhood homes of John Dos Passos
Bennett, to the fertile sites of salons hosted in the
homes of Georgia
Douglas Johnson and May
Miller. Dan's intellectual curiosity is an inspiration
to be around. His input on the journal has been invaluable to me,
as has his friendship.
I whispered to myself; just lie quietly.
Patience now flowers into death.
Miklós, they could not silence you
in an earthen grave.
We found you and the tiny book
inside the lining of your coat.
I think of you on days like this
when the light is gray
and my mind is jumbled
with what matters least.
You are standing there
stealing moments in the dark
of the fullness of the moon
of the fruitless orchards
of where and how your body will finally rest.
Did you know your words would return
to prove the tireless faith,
of what commands the hand
to leave a record of what matters most
and lives on beyond remains?
I was always confused by the photos
of my grandmother in Cuba.
In those pictures she looked older
then we knew her alive and among us.
I have seen the earliest one
when she was young and arresting.
In a white dress she sits on an oil-drum
with wild orchids in her hands.
She is as beautiful to the eye
as she would ever be allowed to be.
But in every other photo
she is weighted with the sadness
of a woman who was never asked,
who was never expected to know,
who always resided at the margins of men.
Thurgood whispers in Sonia’s ears
You know they said the same things
Master two languages, graduate at the top
They still sneer and drawl
about how ‘qualified’ you are.”
Si, asi siempre es. she sighs.
The only quality the senators want is
a mirror on the bench.
I await the sounds of Sotomayor
Rolling her Rs through oral arguments
Putting the Latin tenses in all the right places
Ruffling the feathers of the old birds
who learned their pronunciation second hand.
In forma pauperis
In flagrante delicto.
Dan Vera is the
author of a book of poems, The Space Between Our Danger and Delight
(Beothuk Books, 2008). Poems of his have appeared in Delaware Poetry
Review, The Amistad, Konch, and the anthologies
DC Poets Against the War and Shaping Sanctuary. He
is co-founder and co-publisher of Vrzhu Press, managing editor of the
gay culture journal White Crane, founder of the Brookland Area
Writers & Artists (BAWA), and co-host of the monthly BAWA reading
in Volume 11, Number 1, Winter 2010.
more by this author:
Evolving City Issue
Split This Rock Issue
Kim Roberts and Vera on DC
Author's Houses: Forebears Issue
Intro to the US Poets Laureate Issue (Fall 2009)
Dan Vera on Four
Laureates: US Poets Laureate Issue
Vera: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue
Vera: Floricanto Issue
Dan Vera on Sterling A. Brown: Poetic Ancestors Issue