I think you’re on to something. “Poetry,” is, indeed, one of the worst culprits when it comes to printing prettily written, meaningless work. This is a widespread plague among many of the more prestigious academic journals. It is exactly what academia usually produces: technically beautiful, ultimately cowardly work.
Fortunately, there are many journals, academic and otherwise, that venture into the adventurous. My favorite online journal, Terrain.org, does this. I’ve had good experiences with Granta. But it’s too bad that the one journal that actually dares to use “Poetry” as its title is so crappy.
PS Free verse IS poetry. Anyone with a set of ears and any sense of language can find the poetry in free verse. This conversation, unfortunately, always brings out the cavemen.