Shall I Compare Thee to a Backfill Pile? - Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Shall I Compare Thee to a Backfill Pile? April 27, 2000
Illustrations by Ray Bartkus

Our online poetry slam gives new meaning to feet and meters.

It all began with a simple article in early 1999. ARCHAEOLOGY columnist Jim Wiseman wrote "The Muse Within Us," celebrating the poetry of Lord Byron, George Seferis, Oscar Broneer, Rhys Carpenter, and Loren Eiseley.
"The Muse Within Us"

"Poetic Visions of the Past"
But Wiseman hadn't said all he had to say. So we gave him another poetry column in our March/April 2000 issue, and this time we heard from Seamus Heaney, Sir William Empson, Tennyson, Ugo Foscolo, and Shelley.
Mail poured in. Two of our favorite letters suggested that the irony of Shelley's "Ozymandias" was captured just as well by other beloved verses, one of provenance unknown and one from a 35-year-old sci-fi magazine. Another letter came from a die-hard Heaney fan who felt several apt poems had been slighted. A faithful reader introduced us to the wonderful poetry of Frances Minturn Howard. In the midst of all this, over dinner, a friend reached across the table to hand associate editor Elizabeth Himelfarb W.H. Auden's "Archaeology."
Reader Mail

But that wasn't all. Seeing poetry featured in the magazine spurred more than a few readers to send in their own archaeologically oriented verse. When ARCHAEOLOGY's editor-in-chief Peter Young saw what was happening, he reached into a back drawer and pulled out a folder. Turns out readers had been sending in their poems for years. Peter had held onto a stash of favorites, many of them inspired by articles in the magazine. A few editors got in on the action, weighing in with irreverent lines of their own.

Click here to submit an archaeological poem of your own.

"The Muse Within Us" | "Poetic Visions of the Past" | Reader Mail | Poetry

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America