ABOUT The Lyric

Founded in 1921, The Lyric is the oldest magazine in North America in continuous publication devoted to traditional poetry. Poet John Richard Moreland, sponsored by the Norfolk Poets’ Club in Virginia, typed out the first issue, featuring, in the first year, poems by Aline Kilmer and Emily Dickinson. For fifteen cents a copy, or $1.50/year, readers found poems by Walter de la Mare, Robert Hillyer, Henry Bellamann and Gamaliel Bradford along with other accomplished poets.

From its very beginnings, The Lyric has encouraged and published new poets alongside established poets. Editors have worked to preserve the art of traditional verse in the face of the vacillations in poetic fashion.  Leigh Hanes, who became editor in 1929, railed against “imagists, spectrists, and objectivists.” His protests were echoed by the editors who followed him.  Leslie Mellichamp wrote later:  “Long ago, when men grew sick in soul, And looked through shattered and distorting eyes–/Saw men as fragments, trees hung from the skies–/We pitied them, but lest they taint the whole,/We somewhat rudely locked them out of sight./Today we kneel to them, and scorn the wise:/Their vomit feeds our jaded appetite.”

The necessary independence from the ebb and flow of poetic tides for “the little brown aristocrat” was granted by spirited flesh and blood aristocrat, Virginia Kent Cummins, from New York.  She began editing The Lyric in 1949, following a serious car accident which compromised the health of Leigh Hanes.  She had become acquainted with The Lyric through John Richard Moreland, who had helped her improve her writing skills. Because she established The Lyric Foundation, the financial viability of the magazine was insured, and its longevity greatly assisted. Virginia Kent Cummins’ unstinting generosity extended to young struggling poets who received college educations along with financial assistance, as well as to poets retrieved from homes for the aged.  At her death in 1952, she left the magazine to Ruby Altizer Roberts, poet laureate of Virginia (1950), who worked tirelessly in its service, along with John Nixon, editor for 17 years.  The Lyric Foundation continued under the direction of Edward M. Cameron, Jr., who instituted the yearly collegiate contest, open to undergraduate students in any American or Canadian college or university.

In 1977, Mrs. Roberts asked Leslie Mellichamp (Blacksburg, VA) to take the editorial reins, assisted by his wife, Elizabeth.  Dr. Mellichamp, a fine traditional poet himself, continued to champion the cause of rhymed, metered verse, to encourage young poets, and to publish their work alongside established lyric poets.  When Parkinson’s Disease and failing eyesight necessitated a change, his daughters Jean and Nancy began assisting him and became editors after his death in 2001.

Though, for many decades The Lyric was perhaps one of the few voices in the wilderness holding publication space for traditional poetry, there is truly a resurgence of appreciation for the beauty and discipline of form in poetry, and we look forward with anticipation to more wonderful lyric poetry crossing our desks and appearing in our pages.

15 thoughts on “ABOUT The Lyric

  1. James Edward Strate says:

    I’ve got a stash god lyrics/poems that a local band plays around with. Can I send them here, I really don’t want anything just to be recognized in some small facet for what I do

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    • Jean Mellichamp Milliken says:

      Hi, James S.,
      Did we respond to your kind offer? Of course, it would be great to have some Lyrics from bygone days. We do have complete archives from the 70’s onward, but would be grateful for issues before then, when the collection is spotty!

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  2. Daril Bentley says:

    Just discovered in my 1947 edition of Witter Bynner’s classic collection Take Away the Darkness that The Lyric is included in his list of acknowledgments. I lived in New Mexico 20 years and I consider Bynner one of our greatest poets. Of singular note and not well known is that he was admired by none other than William Butler Yeats. I am of a mind that that was due to Bynner’s powerful simplicity in the lyrical tradition. To wit: “So beautiful/Although the day go by/And the night come on forever/Is this momentary world.” I wish young poets would appreciate that the choice of a single word such as “momentary” in a particular context is the art of poetry and that it is more philosophical and weighty in social terms than their tortured struggles to be “relevant” and therefore published. One should be published because one writes like this. A cause is not art. Art is a cause.

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  3. Sondra Audin Armer says:

    October 21, 2020 you wrote “We’d like to publish ‘Villanelle Without a Villain’ with one change.” I accepted the change and sent a bio. I’d like to know in which issue I can expect to see it.

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  4. E. M. Palmer says:

    Hello! Last summer I submitted some poems for consideration but have not heard back to the inquiring emails I sent after the recommended five months. Since the Lyric does not consider simultaneous submissions, I was wondering how long I should wait before being sure enough that the poems have been rejected to send them elsewhere.

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  5. F. E. Sterling says:

    Dear Jean,
    I was gladdened by having read of your anticipated trove of Lyrics from 1939-1954 from Soddy-Daisy Community library in Indiana. Too bad later issues were not part of that stash! It was by accident that I discovered of The Lyric, my having found a copy (vol. 41, No. 4, Fall, 1961) in the desk drawer of a former employee whose office I was to labor, thus fend off the Grim Reaper and pay the rent. That edition contains a favored piece (James Howard Moore’s, A Song of Sleeping which all current admirers of poetry ought get a chance to read).

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    • Jean Mellichamp Milliken says:

      Hi, F.E.,
      So good to hear from you! Those Lyrics from Soddy-Daisy Community Library, were truly treasures for our archives and we’re so grateful! Actually, I think that we have a fairly complete collection of the later issues. I’ll have to look up the poem you mention. Glad you fended off the Grim Reaper 🙂

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