Most poets hope that their message might be conveyed to future generations—though perhaps not necessarily via the telephone. Mary Jo Salter’s A Phone Call to the Future, a new collection of recent and selected poems, gently ribs this poetic ambition even as it, in a sense, embodies it. Salter’s title poem, riffing on the social customs of various stages in the development of telephone technology, takes on the difficult task of describing the past to the present, and the present to the future. Imagining the way our own time will look from the vantage point of the future, she writes, “We were Martians,” with cell phones that made us appear “to be walking about like loonies / talking to ourselves.” The poem concludes: “All of it was so quaint. And I was there. / Poetry was there; we tried to write it.”
In light of her role as one of three editors of the influential Norton Anthology of Poetry, Salter is also keenly aware of the importance of looking to the poetry of previous generations as an instructive record of what was once thought and expressed. (She describes the process of sifting through thousands of poems to select just a few for inclusion as extremely humbling.) This editorial position, which she still holds, is one of several in which she has been engaged at the intersection of poetry and the wider culture; she is also a teacher who has worked with students at Mt. Holyoke College and now at Johns Hopkins University, and she has served as the poetry editor of The New Republic and an assistant poetry editor at The Atlantic.
~from the Atlantic
The Library looks forward to welcoming Mary Jo Salter on Wednesday 23 March at 19h30. We hope that you will join us for a great presentation and discussion!