by Rachael Wasaff
Unbeknownst to many, the DePaul University Department of English houses what is considered by Choice as one of the top twenty literary journals in the United States. Poetry East is an exquisite collection of reflective poetry edited by Richard Jones that has been in print for thirty-five years. Featuring poets such as C.K. Williams and DePaul’s own Chris Green, the journal has created and published anthologies on a variety of topics such as art, war, cities, and faith. Its mission is to print poems that are immediate, accessible, and universal.
“I have never heard literary magazines, or poetry collections for that matter, referred to as ‘page turners,’” wrote Mark Danowsky of New Pages, “but there is a kind of lightness in these poems that leads to precisely this end. Poetry East has a minimalist sensibility and provides the reader with straight-forward words on a page. No nonsense, just poems. Readers of short free verse will not be disappointed.”
Adding to the appeal of the journal are all the ways that Poetry East makes poetry more and more accessible to younger audiences. One of the engaging tools that they’ve created is their app, The Poet’s Almanac. A clever spin on the idea of the Farmer’s Almanac, this app pulls up a beautiful poem that corresponds to the current weather and time of year. This means that two people could open the app, one in rainy Seattle and the other in balmy Italy, and they would be greeted by entirely different poems to suit their current climate. The app has been so successful that it has been featured in O magazine. Oprah has good taste.
Another initiative in the works is the presentation of previous editions of the journal as virtual flipbooks on the website. Ideally, these flipbooks will be used by teachers to introduce young students to poetry. The flipbooks would contain the best poems from some of the best issues so that prospective patrons could sample the journal’s aesthetic.
The Autumn 2015 edition, “Angel Valley,” Poetry East #86, includes poems by Bruce Bond, Meg Kearney, Connie Wanek, C.K. Williams, and DePaul’s own Mark Arendt. There is also an art feature of four painters from Chicago’s Mars Gallery as well as photographs of the Taj Mahal, taken by the editor’s father during WWII.
If you’re interested in learning more about the journal, meeting the staff, or picking up a copy for yourself, there a few upcoming opportunities to do just that. Poetry East will have a table at the Chicago Book Expo at Columbia College on November 21st, and there will also be a table offering free editions in the student center during finals week.
When asked why he started the journal, Richard Jones answered, “I started it to learn about poetry. Thirty five years later, I’m still learning.”