Poetry nominated for National Magazine Award

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The first-ever issue of Poetry.
  • The first-ever issue of Poetry
Poetry magazine is having a moment. It's just celebrated its first century of continuous publication; its editor, Christian Wiman, has just published a memoir, My Bright Abyss; it's National Poetry month; and on Monday, it was nominated for a National Magazine Award for general excellence, the magazine-world equivalent to being nominated for an Oscar.

So how is the magazine's staff celebrating? With champagne and jubilant drunken declaiming of work from its impressive archive?

"We're not celebrating," admits senior editor Don Share. "We're just working. We're a tiny staff of five putting out a monthly magazine. There's not a lot of time."

Besides, adds Share, it's not like Poetry has never been here before: it's won two National Magazine Awards already, for general excellence and for podcasting, both in 2011.

Share attributes the magazine's success this year to the chemistry among its staff and its collective ability to select a collection of work for every issue that appeals to a varied readership. (That's about to change; Wiman announced in January that on June 30, he'll be departing Poetry after ten years to join the faculty at Yale Divinity School. A search for his replacement begins this spring.)

There's also that $200 million bequest to the Poetry Foundation from Ruth Lilly in 2001, which, Share says, gives Poetry the financial means to create interesting page design with more art and photos and visual poems and to pay its writers well.

It looks a little different now.
  • It looks a little different now.

"We're having a moment in our culture," he says. "Poetry is something people are doing. We've never had more subscribers."

And there's the fact that, after 100 years, the magazine's still in Chicago, right where it started. "Being where we are is a main ingredient for our success," says Share. "There's a vitality in Chicago. It's a great city for all the arts. There's a real, live feel to this place."

If Poetry does win at the National Magazine Award ceremony in New York on May 2, though, Share promises there will be some celebrating. "And if we win," he promises, "we'll raise our glasses to the city of Chicago."

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