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Archive for December, 2015


Indie Writers Blessing

May your sales all come without refunds
and your discount days be few.
May your covers shine, your rankings climb,
and reviewers flock to you.

PMF Johnson

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Many American poetry magazines seem to me almost interchangeable in their tastes. Complex, ironic poems that never take anything too seriously, where clever lines matter more than the subject being tackled. Plainsongs is not one of these. Poems found here gamble with the truth, say what they have to say, sometimes in plainspoken ways, trusting us to notice the power in the understatement. I believe there is room in poetry for both these approaches.

The Fall issue opens with “Barn, Razing,” a fine work by John P. Kristofco. “With snap, smash, wood and glass collapsing…eighty years descends into an instant” lets us know right away we witness the moment of an ending. The next stanzas develop the context, giving us the labor and detail that went into creating the barn. “blueprint stretched across a table in the sun.” But the details never descend into the mundane. There are always surprises here, a different way of seeing. “…that very day, spiders started in…refuting the audacity.” And all ending with a satisfying conclusion.

I liked “Folk Art, Detail from #34” by Carol Hamilton. “How the egrets stand / in the chocolate water…all necks arched / in unison.” Just a very strong presentation of the feeling evoked by a work of art through selected details of the work: “the whole / world stuck, silent in a perfect moment…”

I have to mention “Where We Grew Up,” by Jennifer Lagier. “The walls had hooks, wire barbs / reaching from the stucco to rip a child’s skin.” Wow. Not a pleasant place, but so evocative. “I remember the hot breath / of an invisible presence / standing between my sister and me.” Then the poem moves to such a powerful, sad place. “…we could hear distant cries / of injured late shift cannery workers…pulling their crushed limbs / from relentless moving cogs.” That’s telling it like it was. And a haunting ending. Very moving.

Not every poem comes from such a hard place, however. “And Home Again,” by Mark B. Hamilton, brings comfort. “The wheat was golden past the divide, / seagulls bunched and swooping…” Ah yes, the great plains as I have seen them. “Her apartment offered a fish tank…we fixed her VW…the brewed morning coffee talks.” There comes a deep and instant familiarity with this world. We know this place. “…vases fill with wildflowers plucked / from tall grass.”

A most worthy issue.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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