Possum Information


"...The pervasive influence of technology may have helped poetry in one other very important way, [Therese] Eiben, [editor of Poets & Writers] adds: a growth in students pursuing degrees in the arts. According to figures gathered by Associated Writing Programs in Fairfax, Va., almost 140 master's degree programs in creative writing were offered in the United States in 1998, up from about 30 in 1975. The number of master-in-fine-arts programs rose to 83 in 1998 from 15 in 1975.

"There's definitely a surge in the number of graduate poetry-writing programs and poetry readings," says Hoa Nguyen, a 33-year-old poet and co-publisher of a small press in Austin, Texas. She and her husband, Dale Smith, 32, put out the journal Skanky Possum twice a year, their "very low-fi attempt to share poetry with friends and poets around the world."

But Smith doesn't think all the attention is good news. "It's great that poetry is popular," he says. "But what is it that's being recognized as poetry?"

True poetry is not easy and accessible, Smith contends. He notes that Plato warned in his "Republic" that poetry threatened the social and political orders.

"Of course, if there's money to be made from it," Smith says, "then the art of poetry will be tainted, reduced to something a large audience can consume. What happens to an art that began thousands of years ago as a kind of magical practice, full of demons, spirits and heroic acts, when it is flattened and fitted into a 21st-century publishing house's marketing department?"

--from an article on poetry, Baltimore Sun, April 1, 2000


A special report excerpt from the Issue Zero Conference Friday, March 10, 2000 at The Poetry Project by Brendan Lorber:

"Next came Special Envoy Tom Devaney for Skanky Possum. "I have a lot of stuff they told me to read, but they're not here." The editors Hoa Nguyen & Dale Smith were back home in Austin, Texas, broke & no doubt hard at work on the next issue. Douglas said, "We did an experiment: we put Hoa & Dale in the transporter down in Texas but on this end what we got was Tom." Tom pointed out "The name Skanky Possum is funky & provocative & distinct." He went on to explore the personal & linguistic etymology of the two words, moving to the brink of hysteria without losing any of his incisive brand of intelligence. He drew several lines between Skanky Possum & other magazines in the conference. The individually handpainted covers, for example, connect it to Shark with its emphasis on visual art. "When people say community building & all that other boilerplate crap, it's not so far from the truth because these magazines actually do connect people in a way that's different from what you say when you apply for a grant." He also discussed Skanky Possum & other magazines in terms of a long-standing tradition in magazine-dom. He held up an issue that began with a poem by Eileen Myles.
"Eileen Myles became well-known for being a good poet & also for publishing poets from the generation that come before her & publishing herself & her friends & other poets she admired. Skanky Possum is in that tradition. Hoa & Dale publish poets who might be a little older & who have offered them guidance."

To read the entire report go to the Poetry Project's Tiny Press Center