A group of 50 well-known poets has accused the American Poetry Review, an influential periodical published six times a year in Philadelphia, of being racist, sexist and antiyouth.
In a statement, the group, led by Adrienne Rich and June Jordan, said that of 648 contributions in 23 issues, only 19 were by blacks, minorities or Third-World writers. Only 116 were by women.
"We're calling for a serious and consistent effort to publish a representative sampling of American poets," said Jordan, a former columnist for the magazine.
Stephen Berg, its editor, denied the charges, saying, "You've got to operate a magazine like this on taste. You can't publish on the basis of minorities.
"They want to put editors in here Adrienne Rich, has published more with us than anyone. We publish all kinds of minorities. We've always been extremely open. We will have Sonia Sanchez and Clarence Major as columnists."
In a concurrent move, David Ignatow, winner of the 1977 Bollingen Prize for Poetry, has resigned in sympathy with the protesting group as one of the magazine's three editors-at-large. "Their opinion of merit is of narrow focus," said Ignatow, poet-in-residence at York College of the City University of New York. "The magazine is bland and it doesn't have any variety of subject matter and tone."
Founded in 1972, the tabloid American Poetry Review has a calculation of 26,000.
Poets signing the statement criticizing it include Denise Levertov, Audre Lorde, Gary Snyder, E. Ethelbert Miller, Ron Wellburn, Ntozake Shange, Marge Piercy and Steve Cannon.