Archive for November, 2014

This is the translation issue, which means a chance to see what an American magazine thinks is worthy of support from overseas. And I have to agree with them on the poem, “The Wind,” by Dafydd Ap Gwilym. “Skywind, skillful disorder,” it begins, “rowdy-sounding, / world hero…” A poem to be read in a stentorian tone. “north wind of the cwm, / Your route, reliable hymn.” (I believe that cwm should be pronounced like coom, same vowel sound as loon, and so a near rhyme, not a perfect one. It means valley, or coomb as in Tolkien’s use). It’s a loud bark of a poem, muscled and alive. Translated by Gwyneth Lewis.

Liu Xia gives us “Transformed Creatures,” a strange, aggressive little poem. “You have a strange pet — / one eye is a cat’s, the other a sheep’s.” I memorized that first line quickly, always a great sign with a poem. The strange creature operates by its own rules, quickly laid out, quickly ended, as the poem is short. The ending gives the poem its great power. Ming Di and Jennifer Stern, translators.

Ko Un is a Korean poet who wrote “Ear”, a very short poem, translated to comprise of a couplet, then a single line verse, then a couplet, by Suji Kwock Kim and Sunja Kim Kwock. “Someone’s coming / from the other world.” A spooky little work.

Finally, Matthew Rohrer writes a series of short poems inspired by the great Japanese haiku artists, Buson, Basho and Issa. None of these are haiku, but they are very interesting and resonant: “The sound of the water jar / empties in the open graves…” wow, what a line, from “Poem Written With Basho.” And from “Poem Written With Buson,” comes “a urine-stained quilt / is the flag of / early summer rain.” Shocking images, even. Definitely poems to return to.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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I liked “Paws For Peter” by Peter Leverich in this issue. But of course, with a title like that, how could I not? ;-> “down from his nursery window / a neighbor’s cat / gives us pause…” A fun, quick thing.

“Before” by Lisa Meserole has some sharp images as well. “when the …myrtle’s in…bloom / and the marigold’s still getting butterfly love.”

Charlotte DiGregorio gives us “Ode To Shade.” “Sooth me, after months / of wasting sun.” I always like double meanings, as with the word wasting there. Lots of good stuff in this work. “maple trees shedding / weightless crimson and gold.”

Carol A. Amato’s poem “Progeny” has such an excellent opening: “Beyond August / dragonflies still stop / to capture precious spots of sun.” That could almost be a poem in itself. I think this may be my favorite poem in the issue, in fact: “monarchs have emerged / from their jeweled inscrutable wombs…” A lot of thoughtful lines here. “the rip-tide wind…”

“October 4” by Joan Colby is worth reading. “The gilt beans have been harvested / Leaving a scraped and bare audacity…” Interesting to choose audacity over austerity there.

“Pumpkins on the River” by Phyllis Beck Katz has such an unusual idea: pumpkins in a flood floating off down the river. “You could see lines of liberated / pumpkins stretching for miles.” Great image.

Ed Galing’s “The Park” touched me. “It looked so out of place / a small park right in the center / of a busy street.” The very spareness and plain language of this poem lend it power.

Many other excellent poems fill this issue as well, too many all to mention.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

Iconoclast – #116

The New Yorker – Aug 13, 18

Rattle 60 – Summer 2018

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