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Archive for May, 2015


The Winter issue of Blue Collar Review starts with “Ash Wednesday,” a poem about men locked up in jail, by Eric Fischer Stone. “In the drunk tank, red-eyed men / float gangly through their dreams.” It’s a poem very much rooted in concrete images, to good effect. “he can’t smell the dogwoods blush / pink from shimmering wedding dresses.” We get the frustration, and the timelessness of their ordeal. “…in a primordial dinosaur-forest…” A very good poem.

The narrator in Dolores Guglielmo’s “Valley of Ashes” recalls a childhood in a rough world. “I called the desolation / my playground — / Running through eggshells / And rusted coffee cans”. It’s not a pretty place. “the rodents / Their ravenous teeth Bursting half-eaten orange rinds…” But we can’t turn away, fascinated despite ourselves, familiarity helping us to look at rodents in perhaps a slightly different way: “Those unsung martyrs.” I liked this poem.

Robyn Stone-Kraft also writes a solid poem many will identify with, “I Never Wanted to be a Princess.” “Life was fulfilling, sitting at my / spinning wheel.” But conflict arises, of course. “…father wanted / more, and so he / lied, my life on the / thread if…” A great turn of phrase, there. And a good ending.

Templeton-Greene weaves together a story from many pieces in “A Haunting.” It begins, “The paper cuts on my hands / spell the word ‘IF’.” Wish I’d come up w that. There are a number of fine moments in this poem: “The red sores on her knuckles / are holy crosses reminding God…” Very much worth reading.

And I like the poem, “Failure?” by Al Markowitz, editor of the journal. “The book / a graphically clumsy / embarrassment of riches…” It’s a reflection on what it means to have published a book of poems, even if it doesn’t sell many copies. A humble little screed, well worth the time. “people don’t buy poetry / bored to death by the abstract, introverted fluff / that collects dust on the shelves of big book stores…” Now who can’t agree with that? ;-> Mr. Markowitz shows a real touch for constructing a poem himself, after all those years of editing. A great apprenticeship for the craft, I suspect.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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The April 27 (2015) issue of the New Yorker contains two poems. First is “Storm Beach,” by Sean O’Brien: “It feels like an achievement, emptiness / Reorganized. And then, “In the long pool trapped behind the shingle bank // The sky is blue and bitter.” The poem takes place on the beach, but the narrator seems to feel only a limited ability to act. “Leaving only the sublime / By which to take a sun-blind bearing.” and “we ought to broach // The fundamentals wisely put aside…” As the poem continues, there is no move to the abstract — images of the beach persist: “The gulls will do all that.” But ultimately, the protagonists are passive, and we are left with a sense of loss, of opportunity and otherwise. For me, frustration even: “We’re only here to represent the crowd.” A very respectable poem, with some nice images.

The second poem is “For You” by Maureen N. McLane. “”It’s been a long while since I was up before you / but here I am…” The whole poem is a riff on the phrase “up before you.” Who and what is: the sun, the orange cat, “In Morocco…the muezzin” then the sun again (I don’t know why the repetition. It seems to weaken the poem.) And then finally, “Go back to sleep my love for you / are only dreaming…” Huh. Maybe there was no better way to circle this poem back to the beginning. And Paul Muldoon bought it, so it works for him. Me, I’d have liked to see this poem pushed a little farther; an edgier ending, something to give more of a sense of epiphany, maybe. It leaves me with the sense that there is more going on, some sort of context this poem fits into, that I do not know. If I knew more of McLane’s poetry, maybe I’d get it.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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