top of page

A celebration of writing from twelve years of the magazine compost, including work by: Connie Deanovich, Denise Duhamel, Marjorie Agosin, Victor Hernandez Cruz, James Laughlin, Rosmarie Waldrop, Rosanna Warren, Ed Bullins, William Corbett, Robert Pinsky, Martha Nussbaum, Sam Cornish, Eavan Boland, and Bei Dao.


From the introduction by Bezucha and Gallagher


Those of us who came to found compost, a handful of young poets and artists then living in Jamaica Plain (one of Boston’s southern neighborhoods), saw ourselves as part of that seemingly growing cast of those seeking a different world. How could the Berlin Wall have just fallen, Mandela have just become victorious in South Africa, Pinochet have left office, and Europe have just united into a common market, all peacefully, while the United States pursued war overseas, and seemed blissful at home?


We saw the world of poetry in the United States as no more than a mirror of this paradox. When you would have thought that poetry was about to rise in an attempt to explain the changing world, the most famous discussion of poetry was an essay turned book called Can Poetry Matter?—documenting how the U.S. poetry readership was at an all time low and was bordering on the irrelevant.

… It was our view that poetry in the U.S. had become extremely provincial, and we set out to help expose readers of poetry to the exciting poetries outside the U.S. We met Kevin Bowen, poet and director of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and its Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. We had heard that Kevin was bringing a few poets from Vietnam to Boston to give readings, workshops, and most importantly, to review recently released documents that were captured by the U.S. forces in Vietnam in the 1970s. When we asked Kevin if we could meet one or two of the poets and ask them for a poem or two, Kevin replied by setting up countless meetings with all the poets and by handing us literally hundreds of pages of unpublished material. “Use what you like,” Kevin said. Well, for a group of artists a generation removed from the Vietnam conflict, this was a moving experience. Kevin’s gift sparked months of research and understanding on our part with regards to the U.S. war, the country of Vietnam, its language, and its poetry. Since we had so much material, we decided to publish a large section. Little did we know that we were the first venue in the U.S. to publish the poetry of North Vietnam. This was in 1994, more than twenty years after the conflict had ended!


We had learned so much from that experience, and received such great feedback from our peers and counterparts, that we decided to do such a feature in every issue. We went on to feature the poetry of contemporary Haiti, China, Zimbabwe, Armenia, Ireland, and women poets from Calcutta, India. In addition, we did a section on Latino poetry in the U.S. In each case, we did not pretend to be experts on the country or culture we were featuring, and worked with guest editors who were experts in each area. In addition to Kevin Bowen, we are indebted to Bei Ling, Danielle Legros Georges and Patrick Sylvain, Sue Standing, Diana Der-Hovanessian, Carolyne Wright, and Cindy Schuster for playing the role of guest editor in many issues. Selections from each of these editions are included in this volume.


Much of the inspiration for our international slant on poetry came from James Laughlin and Kenneth Rexroth. Laughlin because his New Directions introduced generations of readers in the U.S. to world literatures, and Rexroth because he did the actual translation of many of those literatures. Over the years, we have paid homage to each of these extraordinary individuals.

Greatest Hits:12 Years of Compost Magazine

  • Greatest Hits: Twelve Years of Compost Magazine
    Edited by Margaret Bezucha and Kevin Gallagher
    Literary Anthology 
    ISBN 0-939010-77-1 (paper) 
    6 x 9
    344 pages

bottom of page