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Archive for November, 2015


The autumn issue of the Midwest Quarterly has all the poetry in a clump in the middle of the mag. I like this, it makes it a straight, easy read. We start with “To a Burred Seed I Pulled from My Pant Leg,” by Jose Alcantara. “You are all prickles and spines / a tear of longing to be cried…” Huh. Why a tear of longing? We don’t dawdle to find out, we’re on to the next thought. It’s a light poem, and delicate, comparing the ride of the burr with love. “You have used me, / in your love flight…But I hold no grudge.” A fun poem.

Dan Campion essays a sonnet, “The Cardinal,” which starts, “He ascends the leafless ash…this morning’s Thackeray anti-hero/seeking a mate…” The poem pictures the bird as the hero of various Victorian era novelists, returns to a prosaic view, “Such things just are, no matter what we say,” and gives a fine final couplet of conclusion.

I really like Jeanne Emmons’ “First Rain.” “…the ground / dissolves to mud, almost breathing.” What a beautiful, succinct way to capture that moment winter is turning into spring. “We have waited…to resign / the cold, with its air of finality…” It’s those tiny shocks of recognition I admire. And the move toward freedom, chaos, life: “these passions running / in the gutters. We are dissolute.” And even a hint of sensuality. “we need no longer / maintain our vigilance, our celibacy.” Great poem.

Finally, I will mention Geri Rosenzwieg’s “Wheat God,” a poem that comes from a place as ancient as the pyramids. “The miller’s stone grinds…fluent as grain poured into Pharaoh’s bins…” Not fluid, fluent. Nice slant. Ostensibly about baking bread, this is also a poem with extra meanings and textures. “patted and plumped / I enter the fire…” The poem also has its detours and surprises: “Dusk when the owl crosses / the field with a mouse in its beak…” A poem worth taking the time to savor.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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