On Bartleby.com you can download The Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1920, edited by William Stanley Braithwaite. What's interesting about this book is it is a kind of equivalent to David Lehman's Best American Poetry anthologies (without the branding). What's more interesting is that it includes (unlike the BAPs, though to be fair, a similar effort today would be almost impossible and would eat up half the anthology) a Yearbook of American Poetry. The yearbook contains:
- An Index of Poets and Poems Published in American Magazines: August, 1919—July, 1920
- Articles and Reviews of Poets Poetry Published During 1919—1920
- Volumes of Poems During 1919—1920
- A Select List of Books about Poets and Poetry
Using a somewhat arbitrary standard (my own knowledge) here is some slicing and dicing:
-Of the 591 poets published in American magazines, 21 or 4.05%, could still be called commonly recognized names.
-Of the 591 poets published, only 7, or 1.35%, could be said to be either (1) still possibly influential—as poets—for the majority of poets writing today, or (2) at least commonly read at some point in school or otherwise.
Some of the poets published are better known now for something other than there poetry.
Yeats and Pound (one of the Cantos) both published a single poem in an American magazine in 1919.
The number of poets who published four or more poems in 1919 is 91 total. Thirty-four or 37% of those were women.
Here are those 91 poets:
Lister Raymond Alwood, Mary Austin, Karle Wilson Baker, Helen Baldwin, William Rose Benét, Helen Birch-Bartlett, Maxwell Bodenheim, Stirling Bowen, Gamaliel Bradford, Amelia Josephine Burr, Witter Bynner, Archie Austin Coates, Elizabeth J. Coatsworth, Ann Cobb, Hilda Conkling, Alice Corbin, Malcolm Cowley, Nelson Antrim Crawford, E. E. CummingsMary Carolyn Davies, H. L. Davis, Glenn Ward Dresbach, Louise Driscoll, Myrtle Eberstein, Paul Eldridge, John Chipman Farrar, John Finley, Mahlon Leonard Fisher, John Gould Fletcher, Robert Frost, Louise Ayres Garnett, Wilfred Wilson Gibson, Caroline Giltinan, Herbert S. Gorman, William Griffith, Amanda Hall, Hazel Hall, Eleanor Hammond, Amory Hare, Marsden Hartley, Gordon Malherbe Hillman, Raymond Holden, Helen Hoyt, Leroy F. Jackson, Oliver Jenkins, Leslie Nelson Jennings, Ruth Lambert Jones, Harry Kemp, Alfred Kreymborg, Richard Le Gallienne, Maurice Lesemann, Agnes Lee, Janet Loxley Lewis, Amy Lowell, Jeannette Marks, Edna St Vincent Millay, J. Corson Miller, David Morton, Keneth Morris, Charles R. Murphy, Katharine Wisner McCluskey, Carlyle F. McIntyre, Robert Nichols, Norreys Jephson O’Conor, John R. C. Peyton, Bernard Raymund, Lizette Woodworth Reese, Lola Ridge, Robert J. Roe, Marx G. Sabel, Carl Sandburg, Edward Sapir, Lew Sarett, Evelyn Scott, Marjorie Allen Seiffert, William H. Simpson, Ira South, Leonora Speyer, George Sterling, Wallace Stevens, Marion Strobel, Sara Teasdale, Albert Edmund Trombly, Mark Turbyfill, Louis Untermeyer, Eda Lou Walton, Winifred Welles, Marguerite Wilkinson, John French Wilson, A.Y.Winters, Marya Zaturensky.
There are some recognizable names there.
Looking at the the volumes of Poetry published during 1919–1920, the statistics here are even more sere:
There were 137 volumes of poetry or poetry anthology published in 1919 in America.
Of these 137 books, there are 16, or 11.68%, writers whose name would still commonly be recognized. This is not to say that you wouldn’t recognize more than 16, but it might mean, if you do, you need to get out more.
Of these 137 writers, only 1, or 0.73%,could be said to be still (possibly) actively influential on poets writing today. In my judgment. This is not to say that the others on the list are not good (or even better than good) poets. Only that I don’t see their poetry actively engaged in the poetry being written today. The one poet I could probably say that for is T. S. Eliot, whose book, Poems, was published by Alfred A. Knopf.
Here are the names of the writers from the list of volumes of poetry publish in 1919 America I recognized for whatever reason (that is, not always poetry)
- Stephen Vincent Benét
- Paul Claudel
- Walter de la Mare
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- T. S. Eliot.
- Robert Hillyer
- Rudyard Kipling
- Vachel Lindsay
- John Masefield
- Edwin Arlington Robinson
- Siegfried Sassoon
- Rudolph Steiner
- Louis Untermeyer
- Clement Wood
Today, there are 127 publishers of poetry according to this.
And according to a 2004 article in Publisher's Weekly, 17 representative publishers put out a maximum of 118 books. So the average is about 7.
If those 127 publishers each put out 7 books, 889 books of poetry would be published in any given current year. It might be more, since there are many small and micropresses that wouldn’t show up on lists such as the above. On the other hand, there are probably plenty of those presses that issue 1, maybe 2 books a year. We're only eyeballing the numbers here for argument's sake.
So let’s round up to an even 1,000 books per year. How many of the poets writing these books will be still influential 89 years (the same number of years from 1919 to 2008) from now, in 2097? If Braithewaite's anthology is any guide, 0.73% of them. Or about seven poets. It's possible it could be more given the advances in print and electronic storage technology. It could also be less given the public's indifference to poetry, our educational system's abandonment of teaching poetry to increase the emphasis on "basics", and so on. So let's assume a steady state among any population of poets: at any given time, only 0.73% will still be contributing to the art of poetry in any active sense 89 years later. Take this year. What 7 poets writing today will win the gold 89 years hence?
The Vrzhu Research Bureau announces a new and unique poetry contest:
The Poets Writing And Publishing In 2008 Still Actively Influential In 2097 Contest
The rules are simple. Use the form below to fill out your choices
for the seven poets writing today who will still be influential in the
year 2097, include your name, address and contact information, and mail
your entry to:
Poets Writing And Publishing In 2008 Still Actively Influential In 2097 Contest
Vrzhu Research Bureau
3323 14th Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017
The Seven Poets Writing And Publishing In 2008 Still Actively Influential In 2097 will be:
My Contact Information:
All entries will be sealed and placed in a time capsule in the Vrzhu Research Bureau Archives. Upon opening on January 1, 2098, a panel of statisticians will use advanced technology to determine which entry or entries most accurately reflects which poets writing and publishing in 2008 C.E. are considered still actively influential for the year 2097 C.E. Winners will be announced telepathically by June 30, 2009.
Deadline for submission is December 31, 2008. There is no entry fee.
The winner or winners will have their poetry manuscript published by the Vrzhu Research Bureau, or its successor.
Note: DO NOT enclose a poetry manuscript with your entry. Any material, written or otherwise, OTHER THAN the entry form (or facsimile thereof) will be discarded. Manuscripts will be solicited from the winning entry or entries after the announcement of the winners. The Vrzhu Research Bureau takes no responsibility.
Members and employees of the Vrzhu Research Bureau and any of its affiliates, and family members of members or employees of the Vrzhu Research Bureau and any of its affiliates, are ineligible.