Archive for October, 2015

See, I just had to use that title. Too much fun. ;-> Iconoclast #111 hits its stride quickly with the poem “legacy,” by normal. Yes, that seems to be the pen name. He/she’s probably had a huge career, maybe I’ve just always been going out the door just as normal was coming in. ;-> Anyway, the poem starts, “here & there i’d see his poetry / he’d probably seen mine in the same places…i liked his work…” Very familiar aura for me, as I also notice so many writers publishing in the same mags that I do. Always a good sign to see that universal moment in a poem. “once i thought i’d write him & / tell him so / i didn’t…” The very stripped down nature of this poem gives it power, for me. “5 yrs ago i heard he’d died…” One cool thing about this poem is how it doesn’t end with this moment, a natural spot for such a poem to end. That normal goes on and finds a chunk more universality to end with is a bit of a surprise, and that, too, is a sign of a good poem. I liked it.

Let me quickly touch on “Picnic at Turkey Creek,” by Martin Kirby, which starts as a reminiscence, “On the gravel bar / Where long-gone alligators used to laze, / We knew the hardboiled elegance / of quail eggs…” flips into a quick little love poem, and ends with a fun little flirt. But the poem is maybe most memorable for me in the phrase about a minnow, “…Laughing when one tore upstream, / A calciferous trophy in his mouth…” That just really appeals to me.

Christine A. Gruber gives us “Fandom,” a mournful poem. “He lost seven years of his life / to a hobby, an obsession…most of his time spent / in solitude…” Such a sad depiction of a life. “…one day / he kicked his addiction…only to find / it was much too late…” We are left to wonder why it was too late, what prevented the person in the poem from coming back from that down place, what if, what if… But no answer is given.

Jean Esteve delivers a gut-punch of a poem, “NOTEBOOK: Sunday,” which has a beautifully high-toned beginning: “All on a summer Sunday…” but declines in tone rapidly: “hungover…he knelt by…Mary / begging forgiveness, did Papa…” and then a short quick ending as effective as any poem I’ve read in years.  Ms. Esteve has a full-length book out, and has published in some very nice places, and it is easy to see why she’s had such success. Brava, I say.

Finally, let me discuss “Minimum Comfort,” by Donald Lev, a comfortable shoe of a poem. “Woods. I’ve never quite felt safe in them. / I’m from…Forest Hills, / which boasted neither forest nor hills…” That sort of sweet, sort of fun tone continues. “Enid and I / were looking at a house once…It had eerie stone stairs / and cellars…” “…the real woods are scary, full of / sharp snouted animals…” Just a declaration of love for houses and city and safety away from the wild. It made me smile.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson


Read Full Post »

So in the spring 2015 Blue Collar Review (the latest one I have, bet I get another soon) the first poem is by that famous writer, Anonymous. “9 AM Break, Line 3, Engine Assembly” tells us of a worker on the line who can’t take a bathroom break due to the team being shorthanded. “The horns sounds and the line freezes / and your first five free seconds are wasted…” We are very much there in the moment with the narrator, and the tough life. “…you want to run to the phone / to call your girlfriend and apologize / for not calling last night…because you woke up in a chair / with the TV blaring at 11:30 / and that was just too late to call…” A very powerful poem in its simplicity.

Then Carol V. James gives us “Automobile Mirror Assembly Line,” which starts “All we want is time to live…And all we have to buy time with / are lives…” It pairs well with the previous poem. There are pithy turns of phrase here, and wise ones. “My past is tailgating me.” A very worthy poem.

Gotta like Mike Faran’s “Are We Robots Yet?” The introduction throws us right in the deep end: “The last time I scratched my ass, / felt like skin…” The narrator is lost in a world rapidly vanishing. “I’m simple as a Remington / typewriter.” And yet there’s much sly fun here. “I / told you that Pac Man was a form of / Devil worship.” A poem worth looking up.

As promised, this is poetry that takes sides. Stewart Acuff’s poem, “Richest Member of Congress” makes that clear. “America’s richest member of Congress / said America’s poor are the envy of the world.” You know where this is going. “Our poor can’t miss a step in their whirl / of two jobs and days that go 12 to 14 hours / and kids that feed themselves on less and less…” If you don’t agree with that point of view, this may not be the magazine for you.

But ultimately, these poems ask questions more than they give answers. They dig into issues that may not have simple answers, and the poets know that. But still we get calls-to-action, as with Robert Edwards’ “Manifesto # 94.” “Now is the time / to make a few enemies / to burn a few bridges / of my own.” A great didactic effort: “Now is the time / to set the wind free in the house…and take the safety off my hand.”

I enjoyed this issue very much.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

Read Full Post »