If it makes any sense at all, in that impotent and ingrown fraternity known as the American poetry world, to speak of an individual as having “power,” then there was arguably no American poet more powerful than Howard Moss, who died on September 16 in New York. As poetry editor of The New Yorker since 1950, Moss could single-handedly make a poet’s career by printing his work regularly—and indeed he played a major role in establishing the reputations of many important postwar American poets, among them Galway Kinnell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Mark Strand.

Unsurprisingly, the obituary that Edwin McDowell wrote for The New York Times highlighted Moss the editor. Not until the eighth paragraph (of thirteen) did McDowell mention Moss’s own writing, and perfunctorily at that. It was a lamentable lapse—lamentable, for over the years Moss had...


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