An anthology of poems and essays delving into the origin and development of poetic thought, line, and structure.
Poems and Their Making is a collection of original poems and essays by a diverse cast of inter-connected contemporary American poets, delving into the origin and development of poetic thought, line, and structure. Each poem is followed by an essay by the poet illustrative of some particular issue in craft and theory raised during the poem’s making. While exploring the mysterious process of making poems, Poems and Their Making offers a ground’s eye view of the variety of current poetic practices, and nurtures a dialogue between poetry and critical prose.
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Introduction to the Book
“Resist everything I say,” he said. But this was harder than it seemed, because Jack
Wheatcroft did not pronounce, he conversed. For over thirty years, this masterful poet and
teacher mediated an ongoing conversation between the poetic traditions which he lived and
the undergraduates conferenced around a table in Vaughan Literature Building at Bucknell
University. Jack’s business, like his heroine Emily Dickinson’s, was circumference, and
resistance was just an aspect of the flow.
This collection of poems and essays about poem-making is inspired by Jack Wheatcroft’s
example of engaged inquiry. Thirty American poets explore the craft of making poetry,
recalling the colloquies Wheatcroft orchestrated for generations of Bucknell students. Some
time ago, the Wheatcroft essay that appears first in this collection circulated among friends
and colleagues. Soon, the idea emerged to try to follow Jack’s lead—something which comes
easy to those of us who have been doing so for so many years. The result is this book. The
essays collected here address the various sources from which poems emerge, how they are
made and remade, the craft that shapes them, and how they reconfigure the minds of poets
and readers. These essays and poems are diverse in style, concerns and length, and even
order, with some poets choosing to introduce the poem with an essay, others choosing to
place the poem first, and others choosing to mix lines and sentences. But all of the
contributions here are grounded in the notion that making poems is a human activity, that it
can be discussed and shared, that it is as natural as breathing and as fascinating as physics.
Ultimately, these poems and essays demonstrate that poetry is a vital way of being in the
Most anthologies set out to define something. Some are qualitative: “Most Garlands,” or
“Brightest Spangles.” Others present a school of thought: “Naked,” or “Buttoned-Up,” or
“Well-Heeled.” Some are bound by region, or based on a shared identity. This collection
shares some of those qualities: The poets represented here are all highly accomplished. They
are bewreathed with awards and honors, including Guggenheims, Fulbrights, NEA
Fellowships and National Book Award nominations. And while they are geographically far-
flung, many have some connection to Bucknell, as faculty, distinguished visitors, or alumni.
But in another sense, this anthology focuses on an aspect of the poetic world that isn’t often
featured, though it’s present all around us. It represents not so much a single community, or
level of achievement, or poetic school, as the intersection among communities. This seems
appropriate, because in addition to his career as a teacher, Jack Wheatcroft was also a
creative administrator, founding and directing Bucknell’s Stadler Center, which offers a wide
range of programs and residencies for emerging and established writers, including the Philip
Roth Residency, the Seminar for Younger Poets, and the national literary journal West Branch.
The other community represented here is also one in which Jack Wheatcroft played an
important role as board member, supporter, and author: Etruscan Press. Founded in 2001,
Etruscan has published over sixty titles in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, criticism, and
translation, nurturing a dialogue among genres. Many of the poets in this collection have
published with or support Etruscan Press. But as you’ll see perusing this book, they do not
represent a single style or point of view or prosodic school. No pronouncements here, just a
conversation—a continuation of the dialogue Jack Wheatcroft nurtured for so many years in