Is There Room for Poems like this Today?

14º feels like 7º ~ deep Arctic freeze, lows in the lower teens for the entire week, the sparrows still flit around the gray yardscape


I subscribe to several poem-of-the day email listservs, and today the Poetry Foundation presented Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “I am Offering this Poem.” It begins

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

As I read, I was struck by the similarity in the language and feeling to Pablo Neruda’s odes, particularly “Ode to My Socks,” of course. Like Neruda’s odes, Baca’s poem is straightforward and openly emotional. By this, I mean, Baca doesn’t shy away from this simple declaration of love. He doesn’t use elevated diction, excessively innovative tropes, or blatant political statements. Yet, this poem doesn’t feel quaint to me; it doesn’t feel as if Baca has over-sentimentalized the moment or kept it too simple. The emotion of the speaker for the other radiates outward, and it is just what I needed to read today.

Still, I am left with a question. Do poems like this get published today? I read lit mags on the regular, or as much as “regular” can be in an academic semester, and I don’t recall seeing this simplicity of language and emotion with much frequency. Have we gone in such fear of sentimentality and in such love of “make it new” that we have left behind something valuable?