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Archive for July, 2016


The Spring issue of Kestrel opens with Matt Zambito’s “Easy Breezy, Baby.” “This feral-flower fervor I’ve got going for you, / fibrillating the very hemoglobin…” The whole poem is fun like that, fast-paced, feverish, bringing in tax forms and Congress. “But you, you / soften the blow of knowing we’re slowly / decomposing…” A sweet love poem.

Christine Stroud gives us, “My therapist tells me I should stop idealizing love.” Which starts, “But to stop that sweetness — / to reach down into the wriggle of new puppies.” There are a lot of wonderful, sly images in this poem. “I want that fifth-date romance…” and near the end of the poem, “I will let my love grow into a bad dog.” Bringing the poem nicely into a completed circle. Very satisfying.

I enjoyed a diptych of triolets by Lesley Wheeler, especially “Insatiable Triolet.” “The tide wants in, / each wave a cave of desire.”

One of my absolute favs in this mag was Cathy Barber’s “The Door,” the story of a woman realizing maybe she got an incident wrong in an old relationship: “in those days, I blamed him for / virtually / everything…” This is opening the vein and letting out the blood, an incident of learning too late. Powerful.

Finally, let me mention Ethel Rackin’s “The Moth.” “Mercury rising — / heals bells — lust’s hollow hotels…” I love these sort of intensely rhymed poems, the rhythm rocking us along. The words shift a vowel here, a consonant there, a spiral of a poem, a helix. And a great ending.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

 

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The first of the two poems in this issue is “Society Of Fireflies,” by Maya Ribault. “…you came with your nighttime show, costing us / nothing.” The narrator reviews her life: “I do enough / careful work to satisfy my bosses. …immerse yourself in the exponential / power of dividends.” Only at the very end does she contrast this with the life of a firefly. “you rise up once more unsolicited from the fields…” Such a strange word there, unsolicited, to describe a firefly. Is it that to her, even a firefly has become a commodity? Is there a certain mournfulness, that so much is lost in computer screens? We know that in Japanese haiku, the firefly is a symbol of the momentary, that which cannot last. This certainly seems to apply here. The author avoids giving any summation, or conclusion. This in itself enhances the terrible sense of something missing.

In “Poem To My Litter,” Max Ritvo also reflects on the animal world, with equally disturbing, though funnier results. “My genes are in mice, and not in the banal way…” he starts. He sees himself as the leader of a litter of mice, who have received his genes in a scientific attempt to cure his cancer. Wow. What a great concept. I forget, sometimes, how powerful a good concept can be in a poem, how supportive of greatness. “My tumors are old, older than mice can be.” Ritvo goes through the difficulties of the science, the camaraderie that grows in the narrator’s mind with these mice, suffering the illness he suffers, even naming them each Max, after himself. “I hope, Maxes, some good in you is of me.” A poignant poem, finally, one working to transcend sadness. Very powerful.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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