Saundra Rose Maley

Saundra Rose Maley: Tenth Anniversary Issue

Tenth Anniversary Issue: A Tribute to Guest Editors
Volume 11:1, Winter 2010

Guest Co-Editor, “Whitman Issue,” Winter 2004


Saundra writes:
“When Kim Roberts asked me to guest edit the Whitman Issue to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Whitman’s first edition of Leaves of Grass, I was enthusiastic. Kim, Michael Degman (who served as an intern at that time), and I had a great time putting that issue together, choosing the poems and talking about Whitman.

I had first learned of Whitman’s poetry in high school, then studied it in more depth in a few college courses—I remember Peter Van Egmond, then a young professor at the University of Maryland, reading Whitman’s poems to the class, excited about them, passionate. He even told us a story about doing research in Whitman’s papers at the Library of Congress and finding a tiny hair caught between some manuscript pages. He imagined it was from Whitman’s beard. That story of Whitman’s whisker was the closest I came to seeing Whitman as a real live human being until I attended a lecture given by Martin Murray, president of the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman, documenting the poet’s ten years in this city, during and after the Civil War. I am a native Washingtonian and never knew that Whitman lived here. Martin’s talk brought Whitman home to me.

While preparing the introduction for the Beltway issue, I reread Whitman’s early raw poems and pored over his sprawling, exuberant (and neglected) preface to the 1855 edition. It rang in my ears! Whitman’s passion for America, for poetry, for the poets to come spurred me on to a renewed dedication to my own poetry. After working with Kim and Michael, I started writing a poem I called “Arguing with Walt Whitman”—I never finished that particular poem but the experience of re-reading Whitman pushed me into some new territory. When Stanley Kunitz died in 2006, I reread his article on Whitman and it led me to write a poem in which Whitman and Kunitz come together.

Working on that Beltway issue renewed my spirit somehow and sent me back to the heart of what I love….”


From the Editor:
Although I had known Saundra for a number of years, it wasn’t until we served together on the planning committee of the 2005 festival “DC Celebrates Whitman: 150 Years of Leaves of Grass,” sponsored by the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman, that we really got to know one another well. I admire Saundra for her ability to balance a creative life with a scholarly one (where Saundra has distinguished herself most notably with her work on the poet James Wright). I invited her to co-edit the Whitman Issue with me because I knew I could learn something from her about care and precision in the editing process. Saundra has been involved with Beltway Poetry since its first year of publication. In addition to her work on the Whitman issue, she was featured in the very first issue edited by a guest, Merrill Leffler‘s issue of Fall of 2000 (The Distinguishing Voice), and most recently appeared in the Museum Issue (guest edited by Maureen Thorson).




So Walt, it’s you who greets me at this hour
as once, in a dream

You brought a glass of milk
and waited till I slept

Forgive my early measure of your song
windy, I thought, inelegant

Yet I followed your lead, stood up
for the stupid and crazy

Never argued about God, took off my hat
and waited

Love, strange word, like roses
I could not sleep

Poised for my father’s return
I looked too long at stars

Glad to go, he did not wait to meet
his only son

A pastel portrait, snatched from me
and torn

A slap that burned my cheek,
her only explanation

Tell me this is heaven, Walt,
that I came along the proper path

I stand before you, at last,
done with my changes


Kathy Keler, "Dance of the New," 2008, acrylic and alkyd on wood, 15" x 36"

Kathy Keler, “Dance of the New,” 2008, acrylic and alkyd on wood, 15″ x 36″


Beauty is a sweet fruit, the poet
Told the young woman as he bit
Into an orange wedge at the human level
Of tooth and tongue, and truth is in the tasting.

He carefully placed two fingers
And a thumb on the stem
Of the wine glass before him—she rose
Cradling a notebook in her arms.

Her poem lay on the table between them—
Hours of fallen fruit, slow and blue as plums.



Saundra Rose Maley is co-editor of A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright and of Solitary Apprenticeship: James Wright and German Poetry. She is currently working with Anne Wright on a book about James Wright's translations, Where the Treasure Lies. She teaches at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland. Her first book of poems, Disappearing Act, was published by Dryad Press in January 2015. Read more by this author: Saundra Rose Maley: Fall 2000 Maley's Introduction to The Whitman Issue, Winter 2004 Saundra Rose Maley: Museum Issue