Oracle by Richard Baxter Posted by Hello

Eduardo C. Corral posed an interesting question in his Asleep Inside an Old Guitar entry for December 21, “March Forward Christian Soldiers!” His question is sincere enough and significant enough to note here in full:

The University of Arizona is publishing an anthology of poetry by “emerging” Latino/a poets. And I’ve been asked to contribute. The anthology will consist of 24 poets, and each poet will have ten pages. Ten pages!! That’s a lot of space to fill. I’m having a hard time picking which poems to send off to the editor. Should I just send in my greatest hits? Or should I try to form a narrative with my selection? Should I send in only those poems that touch upon “Latino” subject matter? And what the hell is Latino subject matter? Or should I close my eyes & throw a dart?

Eduardo received much wise advise from his readers. I, for one, was quite interested with his concern over “Latino subject matter”. What the hell is Latino subject matter?, he asks. I’m certain that there is no one simple answer. Only a Herculean thesis might attempt a crack at it. Of course, transposing the “Latino” with another group modifier, say “African American” or “Asian American” or “Blind American” tells even further about the purposes, noble or otherwise, about contemporary anthologies: lovely monsters of well-intention, confusion and the marketing of unfairness.

Sad, but true, that editors need such tools to bring us emerging voices from all corners of the world. Such cataloguing may be necessary assuming that Latin voices, for example, would go unheard without their accompanying and descriptive modifier. Worse, however, may be corralling a group of poets that may not deserve to be heard solely for their poetic worth, but rather for their collective vein and tag identifier. Does such group cataloguing bring forth emerging worthy voices or does it promote group mediocrity? And who is to know?

All of this may not be worth answering. A poetry anthology is a priori a failed attempt at truth by its very limitations. But what isn’t that is an anthology? The Best of This is never The Best of That. Or it may also be, however difficult, a noble effort to let us hear and know. Meantime we await the pronouncement of the Oracle.