Much good poetry in the Spoon River Poetry Review’s Summer issue. The very first poem is “To Go To Freeport,” by Austin Smith, a kind of melancholy pastoral. “To go to Freeport, you must leave / The road of concrete and take / The road of wheat.” If you know “Directive,” by Frost, it’s kind of the reverse of that. “They will / point you in the wrong direction.” A poem about being trapped in a circular life, if you are not careful. “The map you carry / Is obsolete.” But of course, you do go to Freeport, you do find yourself stuck there, and then one day someone asks…. It’s a skilled poem. I enjoyed it.
Ewa Chrusciel’s poem, “Mourning the Loss,” has a similar sense of the struggle to avoid feeling worthless. “I called the grief support group the other day.” The narrator is given short shrift, as the loss in question is of the narrator’s own clear thinking. A coming dementia? “I called friends’ eyebrows / eyebushes.” A disquieting poem indeed.
Continuing the downbeat theme is Brandi Nicole Martin’s “Dear Happiness,” which does have a certain sly irony to it, directly addressing happiness. “Never mind our tantalizing walks along the Gulf, / the two poodles pursuing…” She delivers a series of very nice images, one after the other. “the blood moon’s vacant, patronizing stare…” and “sea breeze and sugar, opiates and bone.” I’m not sure the narrator is altogether happy with happiness, though: “Dear Happiness, I hate you.” But it is a poem with much to chew on.
Ann Hudson does a triptych of poems, “Work, 1922.” “…every gentleman // with a watch of ours can see the numbers.” “We sweep the hands with paint that glows.” Then in Work 1936,” “The girls were getting sick…Radium Dial closed down. / Six weeks later…we reported back to work.” Then the last poem, “Afterglow.” “The…Factory stood empty, / fenced off.” A great resonance builds up from one poem to the next, leaving us, especially on encountering the last line of the last poem, with a chill up our spine.
Sara Schultz’ “Forbidden Syllables” amused me. “Ivory, a word you’re not allowed to use in poetry.” It’s a poem about shalts and shan’ts, short but fun.
Finally, let me mention Alicia Mountain’s “The Smallest Thaw.” It reminds me of myself, especially in the opening sentence. “During the bleak week that straddled / February and March I became reliant / on potting soil.” Boy, do I know that feeling. “I left a bottle of red wine in the trunk / overnight, not thinking.” With foreseeable results, especially in northern climes. Such a personable, familiar poem. “the smell of dirt said / you are not going to the university, / you are going to your grandfather’s field.” This poem just felt like home, somehow.
Peace in poetry,
P M F Johnson