Abstract

This article examines the seminal role played by editor Susan Hayes Ward in American poetry culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In her editorial roles at The Independent, a Congregationalist weekly edited by her brother, William, Ward maintained a keen interest in promoting poetry even as critics claimed the genre was in decline. As poetry purportedly lost an audience and was denigrated as "space filler" in late-nineteenth-century America, The Independent continued its commitment to publishing the era's best poets, including new talents such as Sidney Lanier, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost. Like other female family members of religious periodical editors, Ward's editorial role received little public notice. She repeatedly is written out of the office-centered accounts that emphasize instead her brother's enthusiasm for the genre. Ward's own home-based accounts of her and William's shared enthusiasm for the genre, however, help rescue her own work. They also cast both brother and sister as participants in a culture of fandom, thus highlighting how the act of poetry "consumption" could be an editorial rather than a gendered role. This commitment showed in the editorial packaging of the periodical's poetry: a 1908 sixtieth anniversary issue elaborately celebrates the magazine's poetry patronage by printing past poetry "greats" from its pages and highlighting its collection of poetry artifacts. As such, the collection suggests an unusual connection between a fan-inspired collection and periodical content. And these editorial practices help rewrite consumption as a production technique in turn-of-the-century American print culture.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1933-7418
Print ISSN
1559-2936
Pages
pp. 78-100
Launched on MUSE
2008-11-11
Open Access
No
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