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Archive for March, 2015


I’ve been going back and forth about which poem is my favorite in the current issue of Poetry, but I think I’m going to settle on Austin Smith’s “Factory Town,” cuz of the cool metaphors. “The factory stands on the train / of your town’s wedding gown” it starts, then reviews the people you meet. “Who knows what bright things / they conceal in their coats” and before the end refers to the river as “that gray, dappled, / broken thing.” Just such a nice use of language.

Jessica Fjeld has a concise and engaging poem, “Political Theory.” “In a famous painting of a founding father / and the back end of a horse.” As you know by now, I do love my judicious humor.

And Aram Saroyan presents a poem, “Film Noir,” which beautifully captures the spirit and language of noir in a series of one line sentences. “He took her into his arms. / She let him in and walked out of the room. / He ran down the escalator….He waited in the rain.” You get the idea. And it ends as it needs to, on a sort of poetic fade-out.

I liked Charlie Bondhus’ “Sunday In The Panopticon,” I think purely for the sound of the words. “The sun reflected off / the glass and my table was an inscrutable / tower of light from which I peered…” Boy, that’s a neat image. And notice how the line bounces where the sun reflects off it, and then again after the word inscrutable, as though the light became suddenly blinding there, making us avert our eyes. Subtle and beautiful.

Finally, I like Jillian Weise’ poem, “Future Biometrics.” “The body that used to / contain your daughter // we found it…” It becomes a meditation on the growing consequences of identification in the information world. A quick poem, but all the more powerful for that.

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.

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The longer I go, the more plain my titles become. Utility over poetry. Why does that seem wrong? ;->

This issue starts off with the amusing “Gibby and Flo,” by Lynn P. Elwell. “They often dressed in matching costumes…” It’s a story poem about the dangers and chuckles to be had when drinking and boating mix. The earthy couple at the center of it all are fun and familiar. The poem won a Plainsongs Award, and I can see why.

I enjoyed R. Steve Benson’s “Monday Talking,” also a stroll on the humorous side. “Car won’t start? … Umbrella broken? … This is Monday / talking baby. / Forget about / lazy breakfasts … and crisp wings / of newspapers / flying you around / the planet.” There’s a very deft use of language, here. The poem builds, getting crazier as it goes, with a most satisfying ending.

My attention was caught by “Regarding The Fantastic,” by George Young, what I’ll call an interleafed poem. There’s probably a technical name for it. Two separate poems riffled together into one, trading lines. “On interstate seventy-six, at seventy-five, / You live with the expectation / heading west into Denver…” The challenge and intrigue of one of these poems is to see how the two poems interact, knock sparks off each other, raise a deeper meaning. I’d like to see more of these attempted, though I suspect they are a classroom exercise many places, and so maybe don’t get enough respect.

I really liked “The Seventh Year of Their Marriage,” by Lucy Adkins. “That bridge out / with no sign, // that dirty trick, / that detour…” The extended metaphor raises tension, has us feeling compassion for the players in this marriage, with their cost of living each day, and the shakiness even after success. Again, a Plainsongs Award winner here.

I love the contrast between the terrifying news received, and the do-something actions of the narrator in “She Tells Me Not To Worry,” by Mark Hiskes. “The day after the bone scan / I go down to the workroom, / grab two planks of cedar…” His actions tell us how much he cares, how hard the news is for him to face. A touching poem.

As always, there are many other good poems in this issue worth exploring as well.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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