The Deronda Review
The following letter was sent out with the Vol. II, No.1 of The Deronda Review:
January 2009/Shvat 5769
Dear fellow-poets and friends of poetry,
This issue brings to you, again, a rich
melange of poems from two seasons and
various landscapes, outward and external,
from poets situated in the contexts
of nature, family, nation and tradition
and the great process of the world at large.
No editorial inside, this time;
we wanted to step back from commentary
and let the poems address us from those sources
of inner strength on which we need to draw
whenever we confront the outward issues.
But as we went to press one correspondent
expressed an expectation that we’d say
something about the war in Gaza – doubtless
because last time we spoke up for the settlers.
Have we, then, entered politics? We’d meant
to run a literary magazine!
But politics asks questions we must answer
even as poets, or precisely as poets,
even though, or just because, we don’t
much like the way politics answers them.
When Robert Frost refused, in World War II,
to speak to the events, he countersigned
the expectation of irrelevance
that keeps us babbling vaguely in our cages,
inaudible amid the poisonous cant
diffused by those who’ve made a modern science
of undermining thought, defusing will --
a science which both greed and a religion
of domination well know how to use.
So, then, our views about the war in Gaza:
we do maintain that Israel was right
to try to save her citizens from living
under perpetual bombardment, even
though it has cost “civilian” lives in Gaza
– we put “civilian” in parenthesis
because a nation that elects a fascist
government, is then estopped from hiding
behind “civilian” status while commandos
deploy them as a shield. The laws of war
are not the laws of peace, alas. In peace
killing is murder; in war it is duty;
in peace no person can be made to suffer
for someone else’s crime; in war the people
must suffer for the actions of their agents.
To argue otherwise is to promote
the conquest of the earth by those who show
no mercy even to their own. We dare not
spare enemies who have no use for conscience
save as a sword against the conscientious.
We hope that was of use. We have some faith
that poetry can be a tool of thought,
enabling us to see the shape of things,
and maybe, too, a steady rhythm serves,
in a small way, to fortify the heart,
so that we take a stand, resist, instead
of following the line of least resistance
(often inflected by ill-meaning force).
The poem is attentive to misgivings,
declines the word that is not yet quite right,
and has at heart some image of the human
as free, as capable of truly loving
and judging justly for Creation’s sake.
This magazine exists to foster those
shoots of such poetry that yet survive
the too-long “modern” and “post-modern” winter.
We hope you will enjoy these offerings,
and also wish to mention one page, new
upon our website since the previous issue:
under the words “Point and Circumference”
you’ll see a link: “Why a Poetic Academy?”
Click on this, and you’ll find a draft prospectus
for this imaginary institution –
imaginary as yet. We think that if
it could take shape, it would give poetry
a clearer outline and a stronger presence
amid the haze (and hazing) of this time.
Your comments on this draft would be most welcome.
Esther Cameron, Editor