For Poetry Daily, a New Era Begins

by
Maggie Millner
2.13.19

Twenty-two years ago, when most people accessed the Internet through dial-up—or not at all—three poetry fans had the good sense to claim the domain name www.poems.com. Don Selby, Diane Boller, and Rob Anderson, who worked together in legal publishing and saw the Internet already beginning to transform their own industry, set out to establish a simple, user-friendly website to help people discover first-rate contemporary poetry. In April 1997, months before Google registered its own domain name, Poetry Daily went live. Since the website’s inception, coeditors Selby and Boller have featured a single poem from a new collection or literary magazine every day of the year. As countless sites have launched and fizzled, Poetry Daily has remained a quiet constant on the literary Internet, building and maintaining a broad, faithful following—the site had more than 1.6 million page views in 2018. Selby ascribes the loyalty of Poetry Daily’s audience to the site’s democratic mission “to serve readers from all walks of life: aspiring and established poets, teachers and students, to be sure—but also the thousands who pursue their devotion to poetry in offices and work sites, community centers, and military bases.” In addition to poems the site compiles lists of newly released books and poetry-related news.

Peter Streckfus (Credit: Don Usner)

After two decades of constancy, though, Poetry Daily recently underwent its first major overhaul. In late 2018 Selby and Boller announced their retirement and the site’s new partnership with the creative writing program and library at George Mason University (GMU), under the leadership of executive director Gregg Wilhelm, a literary arts administrator, and editorial director Peter Streckfus, a poet who serves on the faculty of GMU’s MFA program. Wilhelm and Streckfus have also recruited a sixteen-member editorial board of working poets to help select poems for the site, including Kaveh Akbar, Jennifer Chang, Yona Harvey, Ilya Kaminsky, Layli Long Soldier, and J. Michael Martinez, as well as GMU faculty members Jennifer Atkinson, Sally Keith, Eric Pankey, and Susan Tichy. (Keith also serves as associate director of Poetry Daily.) While sustaining his predecessors’ inclusive editorial vision, Streckfus hopes to expand Poetry Daily’s visibility on social media, redesign the website and logo, feature more poetry in translation, and provide editorial opportunities for students in GMU’s creative writing program.

For Selby it’s been rewarding to see how poetry has changed over the course of his long editorial career. He points to the vast increase in cultural and aesthetic diversity in publishing, a shift he attributes to “a suddenly visible and audible demand for poetry reflecting the full range of our cultural experience.” Streckfus adds, “If we can think of poetry as a conversation among practitioners and readers that has been in play since language came from the first throat, what excites me about the future of Poetry Daily is how we hope to further broaden and open that conversation for our readers.”  

 

Maggie Millner has an MFA from New York University and lives in Brooklyn, New York. She was previously the Diana & Simon Raab Editorial Fellow at Poets & Writers Magazine.