Five years ago, Black Issues Book Review was a brand-new magazine. We had, by God's grace, managed to publish our debut issue. Thousands of subscription cards and checks poured into our business office. Booklovers, authors and folks from the publishing industry packed our launch party. Then The American Library Journal named us one of the ten best new magazines, from more than 1100 new start-ups!
It was an incredibly exciting time, but the warm reception of our maiden effort was also scary. What would we do for our next issue? So founding editor Susan McHenry reminded our BIBR team that April is National Poetry Month. That was the beginning of what has become a BIBR tradition: While we discuss and review poetry in almost every issue of BIBR, the second issue of every year is where we give our bards center stage.
When, in that first special issue in 1999, our cover featured Saul Williams--poet, performance artist and star of the 1998 award-winning film Slam--spoken-word poetry was still in the process of being credentialed. Why would a magazine dedicated to serious readers exalt a spoken form? What would all those booklovers, authors, folks from the publishing industry and librarians say if we put a hip hop poet on the cover of our newborn magazine?
Our decision to feature Williams then is consistent with our perspective now on the Def Poetry Jam crew, who are on our Sixth Annual Poetry Issue cover because they conquered the world's toughest stage--Broadway. Appearing on a printed page is not what makes words poetry. Poetry is in both the eye and ear of the beholder.
Some of you will recall that in 2000 our March/April issue featured the multigenerational grouping of the eminent...