DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > ‘Poetry East’ celebrates 100 issues of ‘immediate, accessible’ poems
By Kristin Claes Mathews /
April 7, 2021 /
Posted in: CAMPUS AND COMMUNITY /
April is National Poetry Month. Jones says writing and reading poetry has been critical for helping people cope and connect during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Artists have been really important. Art lets us know we're not alone, even though we are alone in our houses,” he says. “Even though we are isolated, reading a poem that resonates with where you are can take you out of the gloom of being in quarantine.”
An accomplished poet, Jones has published more than a dozen collections of his own work and teaches English in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
“To be able to have the opportunity and support to champion poets and poetry is pretty rare. It’s an unexpected delight that I never would have predicted 40 years ago,” Jones says.
The journal is a national hub of “plain-language poetry," according to Miles Harvey, professor of English and director of the DePaul Publishing Institute. The former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, whose work appears in the 100th issue, has defined the genre as embracing "poems which any listener could basically 'get' on first hearing—poems whose injection of pleasure is immediate."
“Richard does not see poetry as something written by and for an elite caste of academics. He assumes poetry should be accessible to any intelligent person who loves language and ideas, anyone fascinated by questions of who we are and why we're here,” Harvey says.
He works with a managing editor and a graduate student each year. The students have been instrumental in helping to shape the journal, Jones says.
“It's always this sense of newness like starting a new garden with someone. They all bring in different talents,” Jones says.
Having now been with the university for 34 years, Harvey remarked Jones has created a community within the Department of English and among writers at DePaul.
“I love witnessing the kind of quiet, careful, patient mentoring he does with his student collaborators,” Harvey says. “There's a real joy to what he does-- the poetry, the conversations, the day-in, day-out work with young people.”
Amid trends, a steadfast vision
Over the decades, Jones has read hundreds of thousands of submitted poems and has seen themes come and go.
“You get a sense of where people are,” he says. In the 1980s, he noticed a “bent towards surrealism and magical realism.” At one point, the new formalists emerged.
“People who were writing sonnets, villanelles and pantoums were considered the 'coolest' poets,” he says. Through it all, Jones’ eye for the right kind of work for “Poetry East” has remained steadfast.
“I've always been interested in a poem that feels deeply human, where the language is startling and surprising,” he says. “I can find something in almost any of those various genres that will speak in that immediate, accessible, urgent, necessary way.”
Sometimes that means publishing a fresh translation from a 15th century Italian poet. Other times, it means being the first to publish work by a young poet.
Chris Solis Green, a poet and director of writing and publishing internships in the Department of English, says he admires Jones’ dedication to the journal.
“Richard is as accomplished a poet as there is. But he's just as proud and artful in his editing of ‘Poetry East’ as he is in the writing of his own work,” Green says. “He's dedicated to both visual art and poetry—and his exquisite taste in both areas has kept ‘Poetry East’ essential viewing and reading for decades.”
Several poems from the 100th issue are shared below. Click on images to enlarge and read. Learn more about the journal online.
'Abundance to Share with the Birds' by Andrea Potos appears in the 100th issue of 'Poetry East.' The poem was originally published in the journal in 2011. (Image courtesy of Poetry East)
'Who Are the Rich and Where Do They Live' by Jack Anderson appears in the 100th issue of 'Poetry East.' The poem was originally published in the journal in 1992. (Image courtesy of Poetry East)
'Lint' by Gary Metras appears in the 100th issue of 'Poetry East.' The poem was originally published in the journal in 2008. (Image courtesy of Poetry East)
'Rolling into August at Sundown' by Nick Bruno appears in the 100th issue of 'Poetry East.' The poem was originally published in the journal in 2016. (Image courtesy of Poetry East)