Parnassus: Poetry in Review was founded in 1973 by Herbert Leibowitz (editor) and Stanley Lewis (publisher) to provide a forum where poets, novelists, and critics of all persuasions could gather to review new books of poetry, including translations—international poetries have occupied center stage from our very first issue—with an amplitude and reflectiveness that Sunday book supplements and even the literary quarterlies could not afford. Reviews and essays, to be effective, would have to shun academic thinking and prose, and above all, embrace the diverse voices of democratic pluralism. Our literary profile has been defined by a passion for disinterested, wide-ranging, incisive commentary—and lilting prose; a poet’s reputation has never guaranteed a favorable or negative review. We never impose a point of view on any of our writers.
In 1976, Herbert Leibowitz set up the not-for-profit Poetry in Review Foundation to sustain publication of the magazine. From that date he has served as both publisher and editor. Although Parnassus functions without an editorial board, it avoids succumbing to the danger of narrow taste by asking poets to recommend gifted reviewers; the editors and their staff also scrutinize the pages of other literary magazines for strong new writers we can then invite to become contributors. The magazine prints original art for visual pleasure in every issue and has at times commissioned portraits of poets from such well-known artists as Philip Pearlstein, Alice Neel, Red Grooms, Romare Bearden—and young artists. Subscribers have praised our recent decision to publish original poetry, usually but not exclusively by poet-reviewers, alongside our customary blend of lively essays and reviews.
Our editorial philosophy is based on the assumption that reviewing is a complex art. Like a poem or a short story, a review essay requires imagination, scrupulous attention to rhythm, pacing, and supple syntax; space in which to build a persuasive, detailed argument; analytical precision and intuitive gambits; verbal play, wit, and metaphor. Stylish prose, alert to the numbing effects of repetition, is not frippery or decoration but an essential part of a review’s thought. “Caress the details,” Nabokov’s wise counsel, is the motto woven on Parnassus’s banner. Our high standards go along with a commitment to a spirit of inclusion and an openness to the new. We welcome and vigorously seek out voices that break aesthetic molds and disturb xenophobic habits.
In its 38 years of existence, Parnassus has published seminal essays by such writers as David Barber, Sven Birkerts, Hayden Carruth, Guy Davenport, Mary Karr, Wayne Koestenbaum, Seamus Heaney, Adrienne Rich, Helen Vendler, Eric Ormsby, and Marjorie Perloff. Special theme issues of Parnassus appear regularly on such timely subjects as women and poetry, the long poem, words and music, autobiography, multiculturalism, and poetry and movies.
“For poetry reviewing, the best magazine, of course, is Parnassus: Poetry in Review.”
“Parnassus, like the mountain whose name it bears, rises up unchallenged.”
“Parnassus plays a central role in contemporary letters.”
“Without Parnassus, American poetry would be dangling from a blurb.”