From the Archives

All That’s Old Comes New Again

Poems by many of America’s leading poets have appeared on the pages of Slant over the years. This month, we revisit the Summer of 1992 issue, which was dedicated to Susan Wood and which featured debut poems from two long-time contributors from opposite ends of the country, Florida and California.

Susan Wood

Susan Wood

Susan Wood was a founding member of the Slant editorial board. The year before this issue was dedicated to her, her book Campo Santo was a Lamont Poetry Selection, now named the James Laughlin Award, by the American Academy of Poets. She also received a Pushcart Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry.

Born in Commerce, Texas, Susan received her BA from East Texas State University and her MA from the University of Texas at Arlington, before continuing her graduate studies at Rice University, where she joined the faculty in 1981 and was ultimately honored with an endowed chair as the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English.


(Roy Orbison 1936-1988)

You could have been any boy

I knew in high school, one of the sweet,

shy ones who sat in the back and colored

when he was called on, the kind

who played in the band and was a friend

to all the girls. Of your hometown, they said, “Wink

once and you’ve passed through Wink.”

Of mine “There’s no commerce in Commerce.”

Too busy falling in love with quarterbacks,

we never noticed boys like you.

The year I loved the quarterback, who loved me

for a month, you’d already made a music

out of pain. Nights I lay in bed, the radio

low so no one else could hear, and listened

to your voice reach higher than a voice

could reach, lifting the sentimental words

until they soared above themselves. I never

thought how odd a marriage beauty makes

with grief,,how longing is a form of hope.

You knew what matters in an ordinary life.


From sand and grease, from the numb

boredom of oil fields, the black sweat

of roughnecks who stagger from payday

to payday and the next beer, from the mute

fear and rage of those who have nothing,

you made an opera of love betrayed

or unfulfilled. Or maybe it was the land

and its weather. West Texas, emptiness

stretching away for a hundred miles and all

you see is one small thunderhead, black

as oil, until it gets closer and closer and light

leaks out of the desert, and you’re

inside it now, finally, lightning bucking

across the sky, and rain batters the dust..

You had the kindness of a man saved

more times than most, saved from night

shifts at defense plants and the poor mouth

of oil fields, from failure and the surgeon’s knife

that cut your heart in two, saved from

death by accident and death by fire,

the loss of almost everything you loved.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost

someone, you said, how faith kept you

from feeling singled out and life

grew sweet again. I wonder if you felt

singled out — you, in your black clothes —

when death came calling a final time?


I hope not. I hope you had time only

to mutter Mercy!, your purest invocation..

I hope you exited on a high note, Roy,

one we’d never heard before, and won’t

again, your impossible voice trailing a song.

Michael Hettich

Michael Hettich

When Michael Hettich made his first appearance in Slant, he was teaching English and Creative Writing at Miami Dade College and also served as Lead Professor in the Honors College there and he co-advised the student literary magazine. At that point in his career he had published his first two collections of poetry, Lathe in 1987 and A Small Boat in 1990. He has since published over a dozen book-length collections of poetry and received numerous awards, including the Florida Individual Artist Fellowship, a Florida Book Award, the Yellowjacket Press Prize for Florida Poets, and the 2020 Lena M. Shull Book Award. He retired from teaching in 2018 and now lives with his wife Colleen in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Portrait With Memories

He remembers running from a line of identical

houses, each with a family at the window,

each family’s mother his wife..


He remembers walking hand in hand

with a woman through a junkyard, looking for parts

when a dog broke its chain and rushed grinning

toward them, turning into a woman

as it ran, the woman he walked with turning

into a dog, grinning up at him.

He doesn’t remember having ever

made love; he ducks now into a forest,

behind a curtain, into a closet..

Standing there he seems to sleep. He dreams of children.. .


He remembers running from a line of identical

men at attention, to the house he grew up in,

to his parents, who don’t seem to recognize him

although squinting they point him a place to sleep

by the fire, taking his belt and shoes

and locking their bedroom door..


Animals rub against the house.

Dark fur bristles through the window while he sleeps.

David Starkey

David Starkey

In 1992, David Starkey had not yet published his first book, but he has since published eleven full-length collections of poetry with small presses and more than 500 poems in literary journals such as American Scholar, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, and Southern Review. As an educator, he has written and edited a number of books, most recently Hello, Writer and Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief (4th edition), both published by Bedford/St. Martin’s in 2021. David is also a founding editor of the California Review of Books and the host of Santa Barbara’s Creative Community. From 2009-2011, he served as Santa Barbara’s Poet Laureate. He is Founding Director of the Creative Writing Program at Santa Barbara City College and the Publisher and Co-editor of Gunpowder Press.

 The Minor Poet to His Predecessors

O Dora Sigerson, O William Philpot,

O Wilfred Scawen Blunt,


I gospel-chant your names, you minor poets;

Across the pages waterstained


I celebrate our common bond:

A wisp of genius, genial manners,


Polished numbers we aren’t ashamed

To lisp. Blindly in love


With alliteration, sadly moonstruck

By sibilants, devouring whatever


Comes our way, though it is never enough.

Friends, Sackville, Horne, Brighty Rand,


We will remain always anonymous

As grass, as dust, as everything


Needful the world hides in daylight

And open view… alas! brothers, sisters,


Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton,

John Swinnerton Phillimore,


Henry Cust, Richard Jago,

Walter Chalmers Smith..