Milk magazine — Special Issue

A special double issue (#3 and 4) of MILK magazine has just been published. The contributors include:

Alexander Adams
Margaret Atwood
Amiri Baraka
Marvin Bell
Rick Benjamin
Robert Bly
George Bowering
Charles Bukowski
Billy Childish
Andrei Codrescu
Billy Collins
Sandra Cisernos
Norman Dubie
Stephen Dunn
Martin Espada
Edward Field
S.A. Griffin
Donald Hall
Jack Hirschman
Erica Jong
Ron Cortege
Ted Kooser
Joanne Kyger
Michael Lally
Ursula Le Guin
Philip Levine
Gerald Locklin
Michael McClure
David Meltzer
William Mohr
Andrew Motion
Carol Muske-Dukes
Joyce Carol Oates
David Ossman
Alicia Ostriker
Rochelle Owens
Robert Pinsky
Doren Robbins
Kay Ryan
Anne Stevenson
Robert Sward
James Tate
Natasha Trethewey
Gary Soto
Fred Wah
Diane Wakoski
Charles Webb
Ruth Weiss
C.D. Wright

The line-up might remind some people of a table of contents for a volume of BEST AMERICAN POEMS OF THE YEAR, except that I suspect that the poems in this issue of MILK will be better than most of the volumes of BAPY. The problem with BAPY is that all too often the poems that get chosen could not be considered the best poems published in that year by anyone other than the editors. When I open BAPY at random, I frequently encounter a poem that I would have rejected back in the days when I edited Momentum magazine. Such poems would never have seen print, if I had had any say in it. But I no longer determine such matters, and so “name brand” editing leads to mediocre poems by  “name” poets racking up yet another canonically affirming “credit.”

I look forward to getting a copy of MILK and reading the choices made by Abel Debritto and Joshua Johnson. It’s obviously a selection of poets who are in old age, or getting close to it. Two of the poets (Philip Levine and Charles Bukowski) who were born in the 1920s are now dead, but others such as Robert Bly and Edward Field, are still active. A substantial plurality was born in the 1930s or early 1940s, and only a handful qualify as first-wave baby boomers (born between 1947 and 1955). The average age must be somewhere around 70 years old. What is most remarkable is how a half-dozen of the poets in this issue, including Doren Robbins, Gerald Locklin and myself) occupy a very odd and marginal niche within this list of canonically familiar names. Along with Charles Webb, Ron Koertge, Carol Muske-Dukes and the late Charles Bukowski, we represent an unusual number of contributors from Los Angeles to a volume of this kind. Perhaps, indeed, Los Angeles as a referent is losing its place in the batting order of the quadruple whammy invoked by the late Wanda Coleman in her famous mantra (“a black woman poet from Los Angeles). That Laurence Goldstein’s POETRY LOS ANGELES is getting some serious critical attention from Stephen Burt in a recent issue of MICHIGAN QUARTERLY REVIEW is one indication that my analysis in HOLDOUTS was not a case of special pleading, but merely the first in the oncoming wave of respectful commentary.

You can order a paperback copy of this special issue of MILK for $12.00. Write for ordering details to Bill Roberts at milk@bospress.net.