Thursday, April 4, 2013

Poetry in 1988: A Research Note

[By Jerry W. Ward]

Twenty-five years ago, Naomi Long Madgett edited and published A Milestone Sampler: 15th Anniversary Anthology (Detroit: Lotus Press, 1988).  The book is a collector’s item. Pictured on the front cover are Lotus Press poets who participated in the fifteenth anniversary celebration in Detroit, June 25-27, 1987.The back cover informs us that

The press has held, as a major part of its philosophy,  respect for the independence of its black poets in their choice of style and subject matter.  As a result, its products demonstrate remarkable variety, determined not by editorial biases but by technical competence.
We learn more about the philosophy of the Lotus Press from the first paragraph of Madgett’s foreword.

In a culture which does not revere its poets and does not purchase and read their works, any press that limits its activities to the publication of good poetry would seem doomed to failure.  The major publishing houses publish very little poetry, and the small presses that have survived usually include other, more profitable genres (if they publish poetry at all).  If commercial success had been the goal of Lotus Press when it was founded in 1972  -- or in 1974 when I assumed ownership  -- it surely would have died in its infancy.

The twenty poets sampled are

Samuel Allen
Houston A. Baker, Jr.
Jill Witherspoon Boyer
Tom Dent
Toi Derricotte
Beverly Rose Enright
Naomi F. Faust
Ray Fleming
Agnes Nasmith Johnston
Sybil Kein
Dolores Kendrick
Pinkie Gordon Lane
Naomi Long Madgett
Haki R. Madhubuti
Herbert Woodward Martin
E. Ethelbert Miller
May Miller
Mwatabu Okantah
Philip R. Royster
Paulette Childress White

A photograph of the poet prefaces each of the samplings.

My copy was a gift from Tom Dent, whose note of September 17, 1988 I recently found in the book---

                                                                                                Sept. 17

     Came in last night on the way to Greenville, thanks. I may be returning tomorrow night or Monday, but with Worth Long & Co. there I’ll probably hang around.
     These are copies of Naomi’s Anthology, of which she sent several.  If I miss you will call next week.



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