Most of the time Harriet Monroe found the need to leave the noise of her large family in Chicago Illinois. She had to get away from the constant fights between her siblings and the yells from her parents. These days, just about every day, she found herself reading in her father's library. A huge library that her father owned downtown, with books up to the ceiling.
This was where she found the most peace, within these pages. Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dickens, and Hawthorne gripped tightly in her fingers as her eyes kept pace with each paragraph.
Harriet spent her whole childhood, at least it seemed, buried in these books and spent her adult life creating her own peace.
She chose to write poetry and she chose to write poetry in America.
So the Story Goes
By the time Harriet graduated from Visitation Academy of Georgetown D.C. she had written an extensive collection of poems. She finally got the courage to look for publication and published her first poem "With a Copy of Shelley," in 1889. She was disappointed in the incredibly small sum of money awarded to her.
Harriet was not blind and she noticed that Sculptors and Painters, novice or skilled, made a considerably larger sum of money for their creations.
This angered Harriet and she vowed to work towards helping build more of a poetry presence here in the United States.
A Breaking Point and A Break Through
Harriet worked for the Chicago Tribune as a freelance journalist. During her stay at the Tribune she was asked to write an ode to Columbus discovering America. She spent two years on the poem and the Tribune was happy to publish it.
The problem was that the New York World also published her poem without her knowledge. When she became aware of this she immediately sued the publication. The New York World lost the case and ended up settling on a $5, 000 settlement.
She took the five thousand dollar settlement and began a conversation with the publisher Hodart Chatfield about the birth of "Poetry" magazine.
With the help of the publisher Hobart Chatfield Harriet was able to convince one hundred prominent businessmen in Chicago to sponsor a five year subscription to her new magazine. They agreed to her terms and were impressed by her proposition. With The addition of her primary $5, 000 she was able to start the publication. On September 23 1912 Harriet launched the first copy of the magazine. Little did she know that her publication would become the home of modern American poetry as we know it today.
A Magazine is Born: The Magazine Today and A New American Poetry
Even though the magazine is still running strong and the submissions of modern poets is still within the thousands some editors believe that modern poetry is fading away.
John Barr, one of the editors of the magazine today, wrote an article in September 2006, where he stated, "American poetry is ready for something new because our poets have been writing in the same way for a long time now. There is fatigue, something stagnant about the poetry being written today."
Even though his essay has been argued and debated, his words still make me wonder of the current state of American poetry. Then I realize that poetry will always be around, it just take on different disguises; Slam poetry, Hip Hop music, and an immense presence on the internet.