The Barefoot Muse

A Journal Of Formal & Metrical Verse

Issue #7, Summer 2008

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Dreaming in Iambic Pentameter

Anna Evans Home Page


I would like to encourage all visitors to the journal to spend some time reading the pages dedicated to our featured poet for the issue, Ray Pospisil, who died earlier this year. I was fortunate enough to know Ray personally and shall remember him as a man of formidable intelligence, a convivial host, and a startlingly good poet. Although he left us too soon, I believe that his posthumous book, The Bell, (forthcoming from Seven Towers Press) will stand as a long lasting and fitting memorial to the man and his poetry. Here's to you, Ray, wherever you are.

Someone once said that the only worthwhile topics in literature were sex and death. So, I'd now like to spend some time talking about sex, as there are quite a number of references to it in this issue.

I am against most forms of censorship, including, by the way, the kind of censorship that suggests I should refuse to publish essays and/or poems by individuals who may hold extreme political views different from my own. While I wouldn't publish essays or poems that were blatant attempts to propagate those views, I have no problem publishing work that meets my own aesthetic and moral standards, regardless of author.

Now we have that out of the way, back to sex. Dr. Salemi states in his essay, "Three Sexual Poems by Marcus Valerius Martialis," that we live in an age when, "the fundamentalist Right and the politically correct Left have conspired to strangle any openly sexual references of an impolite nature." (I would qualify this statement as applying predominantly in the U.S. as I believe Europe is still somewhat less prudish about sexual matters.)

I was pleased to note that the Barefoot Muse got some press over at Eratosphere on this very subject, with contributor Marybeth Rua-Larsen expressing her pleasure that I was brave enough to accept work dealing frankly and unashamedly with sex. Marybeth's wonderful Fib sequence, "The Grimm Girls at 45," clearly presents portraits of the fairytale heroines that Disney would scramble to disown, but doesn't this piece do exactly what poetry is supposed to do? Doesn't it surprise, even scandalize? Doesn't it "make something new?"

I read 900 poems for this issue, which does have a tendency to jade my palate. But you too would be bored if you had to read as many poems as I do that are earnest, metrically correct endeavors covering the same old safe ground, often using similar laborious extended metaphors to do so: the seasons, nature, aging, romantic love and loss.

Of course there's a very fine line between originality and obscenity, and no-one walks it more closely than David Landrum in his piece "Shereen's Ghazal," a poem I agonized over. How could I possibly publish a poem that uses the c*** word not once, but eight times? Would it not be betraying my own feminist beliefs?

My response to those who feel outraged by this poem is this: read it more carefully. The poem IS a feminist poem. Sure, it's an ancient, seamy kind of feminism, but Shereen, a woman living at a time when few women are independently wealthy, revels in using her body to extort money from weak men. In doing so, she has reclaimed the word c*** for herself. Ever seen the phrase "my golden c***?" in a poem before? I thought not--David also has "made something new."

So, on behalf of the Barefoot Muse's Hot 'n Sticky Summer Issue, I'd now like to encourage you all to throw aside those fears of being thought vulgar, rude or sex-obsessed, and go and write a poem that deals frankly with an aspect of sexuality. No, Measure probably won't publish it. Nope, it won't win the Howard Nemerov. But it just might be the most original thing you've ever written, and it could well find a home online in my next issue.

Anna Evans, Editor, The Barefoot Muse

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