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Archive for May, 2017


I got a good chuckle out of Rhoda Staley’s “A Golfball,” in the latest Iconoclast. “A golfball / a dimpled homunculus…” it begins. This is a concrete poem, shaped in the form of a golf ball, as you might guess. The narrator takes an amused, even sexy view of men and their golfing addiction. “time to bed savvy guys while / the boys are chasing them- / selves.”

I liked both John O’Dell’s “Learning Archery,” with its “Cormorant hunger stabs a silver flash / in silted waters,” and Daniel J. Langton’s “Notice it’s Getting Dark Earlier,” which starts, “Remember when we were immortal.” Two poems about mortality, the first comparing the flight of birds to the flight of arrows. “Your arrow flies to its target like a lover.” Then, “Neither you nor sated bird can say why.” And the latter, also mentioning lovers, more a narrative with a lover about the ephemeral nature of life. “What will never stop will stop.” Both are in sonnet format, though neither actually use formal rhymes. The two poems are on opposing pages, making it enjoyable to compare and contrast them.

“Ribbet,” by Thomas Donovan Murphy, which is in a formal rhyme scheme, contemplates the similarities and differences between the narrator and a frog. “How strange we two from water rose.” Nor does the narrator consider himself the better of the two. “today / a frog back from my mirror peered…Perhaps we’re not the pinnacle.” A delightful, lighthearted romp.

I liked also “Untamed Places,” by Dennis Ross. “Cities, small towns…do not ring the small silver bell inside me.” The narrator yearns for wilder lands. “mesas holding up an arid sky…” and “a glacier…spirits luring the unwary into crevasses.” He argues, “It cannot be all pavements and iPods.” And I do agree. A satisfying poem.

Finally, let me mention “closet,” by Debbie McIntyre. “last of my ‘vintage clothing’ on the chopping block / vicious tears on dusty devotions…” A poem that starts from clothing and goes on to contemplate various changes in life. The poem lurches as life does. “it’s a new day or some shit / a new sheriff…” I guess I just really like the quirky images in this poem. “…your goofy hat…”

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of love poems, Against The Night, is available on Amazon, at https://www.amazon.com/Against-Night-Poems-PMF-Johnson-ebook/dp/B01LXQX9Y5/ as well as at other fine e-retailers.

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In the Winter 2016/17 Blue Collar Review, Kyle Heger gives us a tough little poem, “Look Me in the Name Tag” “…when you say that, Brother. / Don’t bother with my eyes.” The narrator feels like a cog in the machine of his company. “The / name tag is the only game in town.” The play on the idea that men should look women in the eyes when they speak, for me adds to the irony and weight of the poem, that the eyes “…might as well be blasted sockets.”

I very much enjoyed the poem, “I Was That Man You Saw,” by Flo Oy Wong. “moving around on the palleted floor of the…restaurant…my glasses greasy, slipping down my nose.” Two people here see each other at a distance. “That was you I saw on Wednesdays…with your Baba and Mama…after going to see the Lone Ranger.” It’s a prose poem, and very effective. The sadness is understated, the loneliness palpable, but the poem flips some reader expectations on their heads: “In my room I did not mind the thick musty air.” Such foreshadowing makes the reverse at the end much more effective.

“Floor Scrubber” by Victor Pearn raises a smile, but a rueful one, not amused. “mopping floors for a / home improvement store // is like…trying to row across the ocean // dirt rises in swells.” A short poem with a very punchy ending.

“Merging,” by Alice E. Rogoff,” also struck me. “In Bolerium Books, / I find old union documents…The Women’s Bindery Union.” The poem records differences between those times and ours. “In 1917 the women didn’t have the Federal vote.” But some things do not much change. “Men per week $51 Women per week $25.” A very effective commentary on a struggle far older than the 100 years this poem reaches back to reference.

Finally, I liked the poem, “The Teeth of Jesus,” by Fred Voss — maybe worth it for the name alone? ;-> “we file back into the factory where the little plastic Christmas / tree…sits unplugged.” Such common images, plainly stated, give this poem great effectiveness. “Rex says, ‘You’ve heard of sleepwalking? Well. I’m sleepworking.'” There is much poignancy, and a sense of what has been lost. “Once / we had unions, once we got raises, once…our children could afford to move out.” But life marches on. “We grit our teeth and grab our wrenches.” A powerful poem.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of love poems, Against The Night, is available at https://www.amazon.com/Against-Night-Poems-PMF-Johnson-ebook/dp/B01LXQX9Y5/ and with other fine retailers.

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