20th Anniversary Reflections
We are indebted to Dan Vera for his long involvement with Beltway Poetry Quarterly, which has deepened our ties to the DC literary community, provided ongoing encouragement, and kept us focused on our mission. Vera was first featured in the journal in the Winter 2006 Portfolio Issue (Volume 7:1), and his work has appeared in eight special themed issues since then: The Evolving City Issue (Fall 2007, Volume 8:4, guest edited by Teri Ellen Cross Davis with Kim Roberts); the Split This Rock Issue (Winter 2008, Volume 9:1, guest edited by Regie Cabico with Kim Roberts); the Forebears Issue (Summer 2008, Volume 9:3, in which he and Roberts collaborated on an essay on DC Authors’ Houses); the Tenth Anniversary Issue (Winter 2010, Volume 11:1); the Langston Hughes Tribute Issue (Winter 2011, Volume 12:1, guest edited by Katy Richey with Kim Roberts); the Floricanto Issue (Winter 2012, Volume 13:1, guest edited by Francisco Aragón); the Poetic Ancestors Issue (Fall 2012, Volume 13:4, contributing an essay on Sterling A. Brown); and the Splendid Wake Issue (Fall 2014, Volume 15:4, guest edited by Myra Sklarew, in which Vera wrote an appreciation of Reinaldo Arenas and Roberto Valero, and contributed a photo essay with Kim Roberts called “Remembered by Name”). Vera guest edited two issues dedicated to the history of the U.S. Poets Laureate (Winter 2009, Volume 10: 4 and expanded and updated Winter 2019, Volume 20:1). For those special issues, he contributed essays on Joseph Auslander, James Dickey, Maxine Kumin, Spark Matsunaga, Karl Shapiro, William Carlos Williams, and a photo essay of the Poetry Office at the Library of Congress. His contributions as both a poet and a literary historian have been a significant influence on Beltway Poetry Quarterly.
Vera writes, “Having the opportunity to guest edit two issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly deepened my sense of place and my historical understanding of American poetry. I had previously had an opportunity to dip my toes in the work of poets who had held the position of Poetry Consultant, today’s “Poet Laureate” at the Library of Congress, during a seven-year stint of co-curating a monthly poetry series in the Brookland neighborhood. Along with highlighting contemporary work, this series took as its guiding principle a celebration and recovery of older and forgotten poets. To this end, the Brookland Poetry Series held a number of thematic readings in which poets and readers brought poems to read around the chosen topic and created an “anthology reading.” It made for some very fun and entertaining evenings and widened our collective knowledge of the poetry that was out there and the poetry that had been largely forgotten. A few years in, the reading series chose to do a reading of the work of poet consultants and that led to it becoming an annual reading. We were rewarded with such discoveries and delights.
“My appetite whetted, needless to say I jumped at the chance when Kim Roberts approached me about guest editing what would be the first volume of the Poets Laureate issue. In that first issue, I was delighted to curate poems by laureates along with essays, reminiscences and appreciations of the poets who have held that historical, one-of-a-kind position in American poetry. Having only been able to scratch the surface, I was pleased to dive in a second time to create a combined resource that included material on almost every single poet who has held the position.
“Spending time in the archives of the Library of Congress and listening and transcribing countless hours of interviews, readings and lectures by the poets laureate gave me a grounding on the rich and fascinating, and at times scandalous and controversial history of this “Catbird seat” of American poetry. I am grateful to Kim Roberts for having given me the chance to curate these issues and to the many brilliant local and national contributors who gave freely of their time, memory, and introspection to explore, reconsider and ultimately celebrate these fascinating poets. I am so glad that this resource will remain for future readers as it provides a great primer to understanding the currents that have run, and continue to run, through American poetry and the fascinating ways that myriad poets have struggled to not only make and expand a place for poetry in American society, but also managed to exemplify an American poetry that inhabits, challenges and transforms our cultural understanding of what it means to be a humane citizen living in this democratic experiment of the United States of America.”
Nothing depends on a green canoe
propped against the backyard fence.
It sits like a promise
like some green fallen stela,
evidence of some forgotten civilization
that paddled and portaged before
being capsized in a deep sylvan lake.
One day the neighbor girl will point
and say, Boat, and her mother will reply,
Yes, boat. What color is the boat?
and the girl will gaze and say,
Green. Green boat.
And the virus will spread.
When the waters truly rise
the owners of derelict canoes
propped along backyard fences will be
the backbone of the new economy.
Arturo Tends a Heroic Circle
Every week Arturo walks the round,
hands clipping low shrubbery
underneath the watchful gaze
of a long dead general.
He plays cumbias to silence the cars
that wheel along the circumference
of Mass and Rhode Island Avenue
who ignore his fastidious handiwork.
Arturo’s responsibility is to this grassy orb
to the general who fought wars with names
he always mispronounced:
Cerro Gordo, Churubusco, Chapultepec,
places Arturo knew as a child.
On Fall days when he stops to rest
Arturo spies the White House to the south,
a bright crown through the trees while
Washington’s white finger towers in the distance.
General Scott will never doff his hat
to thank the man who so diligently tends
his adopted country’s curious monuments
to invaders of once foreign, now more familiar lands.
This is the way history finds its own orbits.
Dan Vera is the co-editor of the anthology Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands (Aunt Lute Books, 2016), and author of two poetry collections: Speaking Wiri Wiri (Red Hen Press, 2013), and The Space Between Our Danger and Delight (Beothuk Books, 2008). Vera’s work is featured online at the Poetry Foundation website and in college and university curricula, various journals, and anthologies including Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Anthology, the bilingual Al pie de la Casa Blanca/Knocking on the Door of The White House: Latino and Latina Poets in Washington, D.C., Queer South, Divining Divas, and Full Moon On K Street: Poems About Washington, DC. A CantoMundo and Macondo writing fellow, he’s a recipient of the Oscar Wilde Award for Poetry and the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, as well as grants and fellowships from the DC Commission of the Arts & Humanities, the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His other projects include the small literary presses Poetry Mutual and Souvenir Spoon Books, and co-curating the literary history website, DC Writers' Homes. Born and raised in South Texas, he lives in Washington, DC. For more visit http://www.danvera.com. To read more by Dan Vera: Dan Vera: Winter 2006; Dan Vera: Evolving City Issue; Dan Vera: Split This Rock Issue; Dan Vera's Introduction to the US Poets Laureate Issue,Fall 2009; Dan Vera: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue; Dan Vera: Floricanto Issue.