Masters put out a call for poetry and got 800 submissions. Of those, he took almost a hundred, and with Aptos-based publisher Susana “Suki” Wessling, of Chatoyant Press, created the anthology.
Masters says that the anthology is doing surprisingly well for poetry, boosted in part by an endorsement from Dana Gioia, the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts: “The anthology is terrific,” he says.
Minor, who contributed to the anthology and wrote the introduction, points out the result is surprisingly cohesive, given that the poems aren’t organized around a theme or a place.
“I think Ryan did a brilliant job of assembling the poems,” he says. “What’s amazing is that the poems are not arranged thematically, but alphabetically.”
“I just took the strongest work,” Masters says. “I wasn’t looking for regionally-flavored stuff. The ocean does pop a lot. But there are also poems about the desert, September 11, and nursing homes.”
Masters chose poems that he felt were accessible.
“A lot of people are scared off by poetry,” he says. “They think it’s like math; that there’s a correct solution. I think people feel stupid if they aren’t getting it. They don’t want to have to work at it.
“But like music or a work of art, poetry is completely subjective. A poem succeeds if it only embeds one image…if you come away with the essence.”
Masters points to a poem by Aptos-based former high school teacher Karen Wood Hepner:
Me, Last Year
nice nice nice nice nice
woman woman woman woman woman
wife wife wife wife wife
pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty
glass glass glass glass glass
hush hush hush hush hush
smooth smooth smooth smooth smooth
smile smile smile smile smile
eyelashes eyelashes eyelashes eyelashes eyelashes