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Archive for April, 2015


Way behind, way behind here, but I liked some of these poems enough I’ll blog them anyway. The Fall 2014 issue of Missouri Review included a fellow, Lawrence Raab, whose poem, “The Scenario” is wicked funny. “‘Harry,’ someone tells me, ‘for that kind of money / bad things happen to people.'” And with that our narrator is off lost in a series of clichéd noir movie settings: “the street after midnight where I’d be / outnumbered and alone under a bridge…” I like the enjambment in that spot, implying the narrator is forever to be in that place. Just such a goofy poem. “But there’s always another scenario, // and in it the plot will be treating me / quite differently.” The ending of this one poem alone makes the whole magazine worthwhile, for me. Not to put down Raab’s other poems in this mag. They’re also good.

Bruce Bond has several sonnets. A sequence? Anyway, I like “Touch.” “What does not kill you breaks you into pieces…the parts you can and cannot quite recall.” Some great lines here. “Just like a wound to darken as it heals / the dark.” Again, the placement of the line ending here gives the line an extra oomph. Also, his poem “The Fabulist.” “What I love to hate about the dead, / you cannot kill them.” “What we lose is everywhere / the way chaos is buried in the structure…” Good work.

Jill Reid’s first poem here, “I remember,” is also powerful. “that first threadbare year, the tearing away / from home, my once long name…” I don’t remember seeing three poets in a row with such a strong sense of where to break the line. This is an elusive poem, but seems to hold the end of the marriage it references in the beginning: “In frost, blooms rehearse / their exit….”

In the Winter issue, Dan O’Brien gives us a few of his War Reporter series on Paul Watson. I don’t know any more about that than you do, but these are sad poems, for me. His first, “The War Reporter Paul Watson On How To Eat Well” has the lines, “Enjoying a meal owes as much to fear / as to famine.” Then, “A man and woman / bathe a breathing skeleton with a bowl / of mud.” These are like telegrams from the front lines. Another poem, “The War Photographer Lynsey Addario Tells The War Reporter Paul Watson” starts: “On the road to Aleppo, while long-range / missiles spark overhead with sarin gas / for children.” “Hoping to feel / a reason again.” Heart rending stuff.

Sarah Giragosian, in “Lullabye For Cat” starts out, “I miss you / when you are cat / and I am human, / when you are dreaming / and I am peeping.” “We lap at the bowl of our visions.” It’s a well-crafted extended metaphor of a poem. Then in “What I Mean When I Say I Knew You Long Before We Met” she starts: “Our storylines were the same. / As girls, we bucked through screen doors…” And then: “Our passion grew from our patience. / We tracked the snail in the loam…” I am always admiring when a poet can nail a moment, an attitude, that I have had myself. The idea that I knew you before we met. And there are good lines in here about the snails. “They genuflected and leaned back / against their helix shells…” and “the slurring tongue of its body.” Well worth digging out.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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The only poem in the March 30 issue of the New Yorker was “The Orange-And-White High-Heeled Shoes,” by Ellen Bass. Fortunately, it’s a good one. She starts, “Today I’m thinking about those shoes…” then it quickly becomes a meditation on her relationship with her mother. “We used to shop like that — / trying them on side by side.” And the tribulations of the sales clerk. “He would think he made a sale…” It goes on to deeper considerations. “Why is there such keen pleasure in remembering?” And ends with a trio of exquisite similes that very much satisfy. It’s an interesting poem for the New Yorker. For one thing, it doesn’t seem to have the desperate need for a new shock every other line or so, so de rigueur these days, proof that the poet is brilliant, intellectual, Post-Whatever. It’s straight, no-chaser, nowhere to hide. With a bit of fun, some interesting twists of language, depth and worth. Let me encourage, however I can, the continued success of poems like this. ;->

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

 

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