(Photography by Lydialyle Gibson)

Poetic appeal
In the summer of 1912 Poetry magazine, then a newborn upstart, asked writers to send their “best verse.”

It’s been a century since Harriet Monroe—an editor, poet, and former Chicago Tribune freelance correspondent—founded her “small monthly magazine of verse” in Chicago. Poetry’s inaugural issue came out in October 1912, with two poems by Ezra Pound, who would become a kind of talent scout for the magazine abroad, and a posthumous poem by onetime UChicago English professor William Vaughn Moody. 

The University’s Special Collections Research Center houses a vast archive of Poetry’s records from its founding through 1961, along with Monroe’s papers. Among the administrative documents is a three-page pamphlet Monroe mailed to prospective poets in the summer of 1912. In it she articulated her editorial vision for the magazine and asked poets to send her their “best verse.” An excerpt:

“The success of this first American effort to encourage the production and appreciation of poetry, as the other arts are encouraged, by endowment, now depends on the poets. We offer them:

“First, a chance to be heard in their own place, without the limitations imposed by the popular magazine. In other words, while the ordinary magazines must minister to a large public little interested in poetry, this magazine will appeal to, and it may be hoped, will develop, a public primarily interested in poetry as an art, as the highest, most complete human expression of truth and beauty.”


In October the University of Chicago Press will publish The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine.