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Archive for August, 2013


The summer issue of Threepenny Review seems to have even more poetry than usual, maybe because of a marvelous essay by Philip Levine on his beginnings (so much of the story familiar) or the review by James Fenton on “The Complete Poems” by Philip Larkin, or the discussion of Orlando Furioso, but let’s talk about the actual poems, starting with Justin Rigamonti’s “His Own Myth.” “The birds gathered, as always, at his feet…No one else / could see them there” a great thesis for a poem, staying in the moment of his imagination, a conversation with the red birds at his feet. Why red? I don’t know, but it feels right, like blood, like a flag: “Pooled around his ankles” we can see these birds, and feel the meaning of them for him. I like this poem.

Another poem based firmly in nature, “Flat-Spired Three-Toothed Snail,” by William Kelley Woolfitt brings the Book of the Apocalypse sideways into a poem about a snail: “he has sensed warnings / in his four horns…has felt in his soft parts // pangs of dryness…” and skirts the holy: “basilica of gritstone, its aperture / scarcely bigger than his own.” An excellent work, worth meditating over, with a fine ending.

Henri Cole does a marvelous job with “City Horse,” about a boy confronting tragedy. “Facedown in dirt, and tied to a telephone pole, / as if trying to raise herself still.” A straightforward lament, grave and delicate.

I’ll mention Dean Young’s “Berkeley Summer Rental,” which I enjoyed for the loopy details: “the best way to be heard / by someone in the shower / was by shouting in the open refrigerator…” Gotta love a poem written so slant as that.

And of course Kay Ryan’s “Criss Crosses, (Chiasmus)” about a crow walking about “as though / each step / checked the / last.” As you can see, with a rhythm like the hopping of bird’s feet. ;->

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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