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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—
                                                                                                Saturday
                                                                                                Sept.
17
Jerry,
     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.
                                                                                    Thanks,
                                                                                    Tom