For a poetry that yields such immediate and immense pleasure, the work of Joseph Donahue remains hard to characterize. As the author of seven volumes — including the forthcoming Red Flash on a Black Field and Dark Church, the third installment of his ongoing Terra Lucida serial project — Joseph Donahue has spent almost three decades crafting a sensibility that straddles the often-reductive binaries of literary discourse. As sacred as it is profane, as popular as it is avant-garde, and as funny as it is forlorn, Donahue’s poetry puts forward a voice that resists easy categorization. While there are many aesthetic reasons that make Donahue’s poetry difficult to encapsulate, the most pressing obstruction to characterizing his poetry is the little precedence that exists for such an endeavor. Despite a number of important interviews and a handful of essays, there persists a lack of commentary on this rich and rewarding body of work.
This festschrift for Donahue is long overdue. In it, one will find interpretations of literary works infused with personal feelings of respect and admiration as well as previously unpublished poetry by the writer himself. The entries follow a reverse chronological order, in that the first address his most recent publications, while the last focus on his earliest efforts. If there were one goal for the feature, it would be to make public the conversation already taking place about Donahue’s poetry, and in the process expand the poet’s readership. Such a task is necessary when a writer privileges the disorderly devotion of literary pursuits to the orderly self-promotion of schools and movements. These readers have gathered to give thanks for a poet who listens with intense generosity, a voice that hears voices.