On LOCUSPOINT: Clarifying and expanding

From Eduardo:

The "Phoenix" installment of LOCUSPOINT is up and running. Go have a read. Notice anything? Each contributor has an MFA from ASU or works for ASU. This installment isn't about Phoenix poets. It's about ASU MFA poets and the ASU MFA program. That's not a bad thing. I do like Sean Nevin's work, and Christopher Burawa's translations leave me wanting more work by Jóhann Hjálmarsson. Hey, I just noticed Burawa's bio doesn't mention his MFA, but I believe he holds an MFA from ASU.

I guess all the worthwhile poets in the Phoenix area have ties to Tempe. This narrow focus is disappointing. Especially after reading Charles Jensen's introduction in which he mentions the arts community in Phoenix is "rapidly developing."

If Jensen is only interested in the work of MFA poets then he should've enlarged the scope of this installment to include University of Arizona MFA poets. Why? Because the University of Arizona produces much better poets. Period. ASU is just beginning to catch up to the Tucson program.

Hey, nothing is perfect. And Jensen is bringing attention to some good work. I was just hoping to see work by non-ASU poets. But hey, Jensen is fighting the good fight. All I can do is bitch and moan.

Boy, I'm never going to be invited to the ASU Writers Conference now.

From me:
Hi Eduardo,

Thanks for your thoughtful critique of LOCUSPOINT, and for linking to it here. Just be reminded that no edition of LOCUSPOINT ever seeks to be "definitive" of a time or place, but is designed to be a subjective snapshot of an editor's perception of place. If you look back at other editions, no one ever makes sweeping claims to summarize an entire city or region in seven poets; to event attempt to do so is an exercise in futility.

When I edited Phoenix, I chose work by poets I knew best, people with whom I interacted on a daily basis. Since my professional life centered around ASU, that's where my focus was. It's not to say that another poet would choose the same work; I'd expect the opposite.

And, to wit, all the poets in this edition actually do have ties to the Phoenix literary community in a broader sense: all work in arts administrative positions either on a local or national level, and two of them have work that is based in Phoenix.

Just thoughts for you.

* * * *

And to clarify: each editor is allowed to choose if they edit a city proper or a metro area. They choose their own region. I chose the whole metro.

* * * *

I guess I should expect responses like this. The dominant critical mode in literature has been to reject subjectivity. It's why responses to anthologies often read editorial assumptions and intent from the dichotomy of inclusion/exclusion.

When I think about criticism, I think a lot about something Jeannine Hall Gailey wrote in her blog some time back. Jeannine wrote about, to paraphrase, the impulse to write "sweeping criticism," criticism that categorizes (in effect, limits) readings rather than expands them or allows for multiple and even competing readings.


  1. Wait. He doesn't like my work? Is it because I'm Jewish with an MFA? :)



    As a mother of two, and a lover of poetry, the MFA program provided me links to others with the same love of writing and reading. I am still paying off loans, so it was an expensive privilege. I was not an integral part of that program. I did not TA, nor edit any of the journals sponsored by ASU.

    I did, and currently do teach high school English. I was unable to leave Tempe to attend a "program" elsewhere as my husband's job, and my family are deeply rooted in the East Valley. And, for the record, I learned more about what I am NOT as a writer, than what I am.

    I am NOT good at networking, or tapping into poetic trends. I am good at supporting young writers and at maintaining an ever present awareness of those who came before me... not all members of the literati, some members of MFA programs and some who wrote beyond all boundaries. I would rather concern myself with the former task than drawing lines between writers, or pigeon-holing them...

  2. Oh, yeah, and I have my BA from the Universtiy of Arizona. Period. :)

  3. (The links on the Seattle issue aren't working.)