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Two poems appear in this issue of The Nation, the first by Jose A. Rodriguez: “Translating an Autopsy, or To the Man Autopsied Into 99 Pages.” Kind of a clunky title, but I liked the beginning. “Please know that I read them all and could not weep…” The poem dances between two tones, that of describing a murder scene from an amused and cynical novel, and the more subtle horror of realizing that scenes like this appear every day, they are no exaggeration. “…the rudimentary outline of a / male body the size of an action-figure with wounds / marked X on your torso.” The further into the poem we go, the more the horror becomes real. “splatters on the wall dripping every synonym / of pain.” The ending comes as a shock, twists the meaning of the poem from a murder due to some drug deal gone bad, or a violent turf struggle, into something else. The epiphany catches our heart. A powerful poem.

The second poem is “Courage,” by Nate Klug. “Stillness until six, the yards and porches / giant toy sets…” This is a poem that rewards close attention. A short poem about the briefness and fragility of life. “Each sleep a baffling practice / for leaving you behind…” Well, when we think about it, yes, sleep can be seen as a practice for death. But the poet stays in the moment, with images that almost fragment the scene, giving us only brief clues to what we are seeing. So much erased, but with the essentials remaining. The poem lured me into a sort of meditation. Pretty cool.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Convergence Online Journal – Spring 2018

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

The Cape Rock – 46

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

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This issue of Convergence Online Journal contains a wonderful sestina by Carol Louis Moon, “Accepting The Temporary.” “I stared at the cat for hours,” it begins, “… with all that means. // But meaning is only temporary…” Moon goes beyond the minimal requirements of a sestina (to reuse the final words of each line of a stanza in each subsequent stanza) adding much circular complexity, doubling back, mulling things from different perspectives. “…the cat circles round itself.” It’s a great use of the form, to keep coming back to touchstones, which touchstones shift on us, in a poem with a theme of the temporary. “one considers the way // life spends itself away.” This poem alone is worth looking up. I give the link to the magazine below.

Viola Weinberg gives us “Spirit Garden,” chock-full of wonderful images. “the 8′ cannas / blazing red, with firecracker throats… and a tepee of willow / in a sea of tomatoes.” Makes me ache and long to get out in the garden, digging my fingers into loam. Sometimes, it’s enough for a poem just to celebrate. “O, the song of it, the symphony / and happy chaos of growing things.”

I liked Darren C. Demaree’s “Poem for Katie, Queen of Ohio #49,” which begins, “I could
canister // my ghosts…” What a great way to start. It’s a short poem, worked out beautifully.

“Fish Tank,” by Scott Laudati, tells of an absurd moment in an otherwise sad incident. “i believed in everything… except when you told me / your tree had been cursed.” Such naiveté of course often leads to misunderstandings at best, disaster at worst. This tale might fall somewhere in the middle, though it has dour moments. “and the crowd cheered as the noose tightened.” Very worth reading.

Many poems in Convergence have a seasonal theme, and one I liked was “Renewal,” by Ann Wehrman. “Through the windows of the bus… bones of winter trees interminable.” But spring does appear, and with it a burst of fun images. “Magnolias bloom like coy southern belles.”

And finally, “Locks Off,” by John Zedolik. “The hasps of March / have swung, knocking / the rust of winter…” An excellent way to start a poem about changing seasons.

The link to the magazine: Convergence Online Journal

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

The Cape Rock – 46

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

 


Has anyone else noticed that we seem to be having a steady changing of the guard in poetry? It may be that a generation’s worth of editors has been retiring, and now we are seeing… if not new blood, at least younger blood… in the pages of our periodicals. The Yale Review, Prairie Schooner, there are many mags where this is happening.

The New Yorker is part of this change, at least on the editorial side. We’ll see how it plays out with new poets, and maybe new approaches. I like it, myself.

The first poem in this issue is “Girlhood,” by Cecily Parks. “was when I slept in the woods / bareheaded beneath jagged / stars.” I like jagged stars. They seem like that, at night. Not cuddly, but alien and maybe a bit inimical. Parks does not sustain this arms-length approach however: “when I was known / by the lilac I hid beside.” We are so enthralled with the pastoral stuff that the essential mystery of such a line may pass us by. But her insistence that more is going on here finally catches us up: “when that lilac, / burdened by my expectations of lilacs, / began a journey…” And the essential alien nature of her world returns with a jolt. We have to jump into a metaphorical reading. Is it the memory of the lilac going away? Is it childhood itself that is passing? Puzzling out the meaning of what had seemed a plain, straightforward poem casts us back again and again over the lines, so that when the heartbreaks of the last line appear, we are ready. A deeply meditative poem.

The second poem is “June,” by Alex Dimitrov. “There will never be more of summer / than there is now.” Boy, it’s fun to have a first line to just stop and reflect on, like that. It’s like we get to dive deep into the season, which let’s face it by this time of year we are more or less yearning for. But the narration carries us forward. “Walking alone / through Union Square I am carrying flowers… to a party where I’m expected.” Such a sense of belonging here. This city, the familiar city, whose quirks are referenced (with a smile) in passing. “It’s Sunday and the trains run on time.” The narrator is charmed, though there may be a bit of a question whether he can be happy alone. But he participates fully. “People do know they are alive.” A celebratory poem, that acknowledges the city’s difficulties, as the world’s difficulties, but shrugs them off for the moment. In this poem, hope and possibility also have a central place. A joy of a poem to read.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The Cape Rock – 46

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

The New Yorker – Apr 2 2018

The Cape Rock – 46


Magazines like this represent a deep dive into the U.S. poetry scene. Hundreds, if not thousands of poets speak out in the small press, a groundswell of metaphor and insight. Many of these poets will burst out into wider view soon, if history is prologue. ;->

Laurie Sewall’s contribution to The Cape Rock is “The Last Temples Left,” which starts, “My soul appeared to me as a giant — legs long / as the Hudson… I wasn’t ready / for this.” Great fun. A poem about things lost, things altered, with an amused voice.

Paula Brancato muses about all the stuff her ex-boyfriends have left behind, in “The Ex-Boyfriend Drawer.” “a man’s tie behind my sofa… a man’s belt under my bed.” She is bemused by where all these things show up, how they got there, and what is to be done with them. “It’s not like I can call each man / and ask, ‘did you lose a tie…'” In the end, she does find a happy resolution.

Suzanne O’Connell has great fun in “Nude Descending A Staircase Without Laundry.” “I wish he would wait, / just once, / at the bottom landing. / I’d glide down the stairs… No squirmy infant under my arm.” Ah, the jarring dissonance between romance and reality! “I would take my time, / head held high.” A joyful work.

In “The Beavers At Rehab,” Nathan Graziano explores the power of distraction to help us weather tough times. “the counselors led us / down a hiking path…to observe / the night work the beavers did.” A poem of careful observation and epiphany, as the narrator comes to correlate the tedious work the beavers were doing with the work he has to do himself, and the lessons he can learn. “…those beavers / didn’t need booze to build their goddam dams.” Once again, this poem ends with a laugh, always a good way to finish.

Finally, Adria Klinger gives us a plain-spoken poem about a tough moment, with “Spring And Cancer.” “OMG, it’s Spring again, / and I’m losing my hair from chemo.” We root for the narrator, and wish her well, empathizing with her situation. “I shed hair and cells… until all is laid bare.” A poem of hope and openness.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

The New Yorker – Apr 2 2018

Convergence – Winter 2017

 


The first poem in the issue is “Lettres D’Amour,” by Brittany Ackerman, a prose poem about two people not meeting due to reluctance, various misunderstandings and mere chance. “You came because I never answered your letters, all your letters. I had asked you so long ago to stop writing. I did this by not writing back. I had asked by not saying.” Were the two once lovers? Is the one stalking the other? It’s a bit mysterious, but enjoyably written.

In “Past Tense,” Katherine Gekker relates a story of loss, in three brief stanzas. “You begin to speak of me / in the past tense… As if to know and to let go / are simultaneous events.” A somber poem, leaving a deep resonance.

“Remnants,” by Christopher Todd Anderson, is a dense poem, but worth exploring. “Mixed weather. Shale-gray banks of clouds / obscure the horizon, then fragment overhead” it begins, and just rolling the words around gives a taste like burgundy. But then comes the shock of the next stanza. “I find the crooked foreleg of a deer hanging / from a… sapling… hooked at the gristled remnant of a knee.” Just like that, we are now examining the strange and macabre ways of humankind. The narrator tells tales of other findings out in nature, reflects on a daughter, and finishes more wary than at the beginning. A fine poem.

Simon Perchik gives us the poem “*”. Which, if you have followed him, has been the name of a number of his poems over the years. Anyway, this iteration of the poem starts out fun: “More restless than usual this nail / is eating its prey :the wall.” I like that brain twister. How can a nail be more restless than usual? How can it eat the wall? The nail evidently holds up a painting of a woman, who also does not stay in place: “a make-shift ritual / where she is passed wall to wall.” A truly strange little poem, worth a few reads.

Finally, let me mention “Rocks From The Black Sea,” by Claudia Serea. “Kids always like to pick rocks, /
and we did, each year, / carrying pounds of heavy mementos.” It’s a quiet poem about memories, returning, and family. “I remembered how my father told me / he picked up some rocks and dirt / from his parents’ grave.” It leaves us with a sadness and yearning and, at the very end, a bit of hope.

Here’s the link to the magazine: http://www.applevalleyreview.com/

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – Apr 2 2018

Convergence – Winter 2017

Blue Collar Review – Fall, 17

 


The first poem in the April 2 New Yorker is “How Forever Works,” a short poem by C.L. O’Dell. “The soft tick of snow / landing in its own body…” A very original way to look at snowfall. Looking out my window at the moment, seeing the (seemingly) endless snow, I appreciate the metaphor of snow as forever. It creates silence, it adds endlessly to itself, as the poem says, and it easily takes on form as a body. And that word tick references a clock, time passing. The poem takes different points of view, even inside its short self, a tricky ambition: “the world / remembered us…quietly.”
Then the final line takes even a different line, so creating a poem that requires much contemplation, and review, to enjoy to the fullest. We are left almost to think of ourselves as a dying memory, underground already perhaps, and a silent snow above. Erasing?

The other poem is “Who Knows One,” by Jane Shore, one of the most ambitious poems of recent years. “Who knows One. I know One. / One is God for God is One” it begins, and from this base she constructs the rest of the poem. It takes the form of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” each stanza starting with a consideration of the next larger number and then numerically decreasing, line by line, to the “One is God…” line. So we have, “Five is the five in ‘Slaughter-House Five.’ / Four is Egypt’s plague of flies” and so on. Many of the references are topical, or otherwise easily recognizable, some are common phrases. “Two can play that game.” This gives the reader reference points, so it isn’t all a tedious slog, and gives the poem a speedy pace that keeps us reading for the next reference, the next ‘aha’ moment. Only in the last stanza does the underlying subject of the poem reveal itself; when suddenly all those earlier references have a deeper meaning. So after the big reveal we want to reread the whole poem, seeing deeper meanings where we had seen commonplace phrases. That’s a great technique, very difficult to pull off, and one which rewards the reader deeply. I recommend you look this poem up as you can.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – March 19 2018

Rattle 59 – Spring 2018

The New Yorker – Jan 22 2018

 


The first poem in this issue of  Convergence, Viola Weinberg’s poem, “Yes, This Day,” is a fresh and honest look at the difficulty of moving around after some health issues. “Once was, you walked across / Countries, down steep steps // In secret cities…” Maybe it’s the vistas presented by this opening, or maybe it’s due to a time when I had such limitations myself, but I really identified with and enjoyed this poem. Or maybe it’s just that there are many delightful lines: ” let your rods and screws / Ring like bells and bang like hammers / On fragile jigging skeletons…”

Holly Day gives us a post-apocalyptic poem, “In Patience.” “the birds circle the tallest skyscrapers as if knowing / each tiny room is filled with dying or dead meat.” Very creepy. The images are satisfyingly disturbing. “wild dogs and feral cats / pace… back and forth / as if they think the electric sensors will…
give in, let them in… one final flicker of electricity… to open the doors.” Don’t know that I like considering myself as just part of a potential meat market. Great fun.

A.J. Huffman considers confetti in “Confetti Palace.” “Seven billion pieces of folded foil fall inside /
walls made of glass.” A meditation on how confetti enhances a celebration. And how quickly both celebration and confetti go. Quick but good.

I also liked “Why We Gave Our Tree A Name,” by Michael Brownstein, the story of the slow death of a beloved tree. “We knew the old black walnut was ready to walk away from its earth.” Trees can often take years to die, and the author notes that here. But the end, after a weakening, can still happen via outside agency: “Then: a sharp slap to the air, the ground vibrated, and we watched it lift itself up, /
Throw dirt and roots to the side of our hill, hollow out a cave of bark and wood” Beautiful language.

Finally, let me mention “Fog Trunks,” by Diane Webster, just because it’s fun. “In the fog / tree trunks pretend / they’re elephant legs…” a short poem, a quick conceit. It raised a smile for me.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – March 19 2018

Rattle 59 – Spring 2018

Blue Collar Review – Fall 2017