Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2018


The first poem in this issue is “Essay On ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,'” by Catherine Barnett. “John Locke says children don’t understand lapsed time, / and when I was a girl it was true.” Is it just me, or does that start out kind of dry and serious? But we are promised amusement by that title, an essay on an essay, and soon enough, Barnett delivers: “It’s been three hundred years and still my feelings for Locke / must pass unrequited.” Our narrator goes on to try impressing her friends with bad French, and ends meditating on a view of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris, and on human history. The focus on Locke keeps the poem hanging together, and thinking about the human condition is the organizing theme. A light-hearted poem, with a marvelous ending, that I enjoyed re-reading.

The other poem is “Fidelio,” by Geoffrey G. O’Brien. “It’s so narrow here. And kind of falsely / Shining with the return of spring.” Google is often helpful with such erudite poetry, and sure enough, Fidelio turns out to be Beethoven’s only opera. Knowledge of the story helps us understand the poem. The opera is set in a prison, and involves a man falsely imprisoned, with his wife trying to save him from unjust execution. “There are prisons both sides of the walls.” and, “No one can sing that music but all / involve themselves…” I really don’t follow the logic of the poem, but it keeps pulling me back in anyway. Just the chewiness of the lines, I guess. “…a garden, it’s wet petals still / Clustered shy of being individual.”

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Rattle 59 – Spring 2018

Blue Collar Review – Fall 2017

The New Yorker – Jan 22 2018

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


A fun poem by Scott Beal opens this issue of Rattle, “Ambiguous Antecedents.” “When the kid tells you their new pronoun of choice / is it… you try to see / the kid as the kid sees itself.” I love the tongue-in-cheekiness. Beal goes over how the language is changing. “Partner seems like such an unloaded word… that should make / a harmless click when triggered.” Seems like it’s more rare to see a poet playing with the language recently. But isn’t that what poets are supposed to do? And I relish the joy of the irreverence: “Nick becomes quadratic.”

The next poem also relies on fun, George Bilgere’s “Big Thing,” which starts: “Did you hear about Gary? His new book is supposed to be big. / People are… talking Badger Prize. / Maybe even the Bexley.” It’s a poem about jealousy, and the competitive world of poetry, and how we don’t really know each other well. “And now we have this sense of… being bit players in the Larger Drama of Gary.” Very enjoyable.

Transcending the commonplace might be the theme of “Miraculous Stardust,” by Bonnie Buhrow. “The girl couldn’t speak English… couldn’t whistle or hum, let alone sing… no one paid attention to her at the factory.” The girl remains separate from those around her, everyday workers at everyday jobs. But at noon, “the girl stole outside…where / she practiced levitating… until she reached / a flawless buoyancy.” And the language grows more buoyant along with her. “She was like a flake of cork, a molted feather.” An inspiring, uplifting poem, with an ending that grounds it nicely.

Megan Falley starts “Ode to Red Lipstick,” with: “Cleopatra crushed beetles / to make red lipstick / because… even in 30 BC… speaking 12 languages / would be… more impressive / when the words jumped / through a ring of fire.” This is a poem that grabs your lapel and says, listen to me, here’s some great language, even contemplating a commonplace item. But of course, lipstick, being so intimate, so close, in some places and times has taken on a weight and profundity beyond what we might expect. A poem to make us think.

This issue has a section on immigrant poets, which I enjoyed very much. Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach presents us with “In Praise of Forgetting.” “Forget to turn off the lights and wash the dishes and empty the tub. // Forget the standing water and let it bring ghosts into the home.” Already we know something is going on underneath this list of things to forget — consequences in a life, perhaps, or those who are now gone. “Forget the names you gave them once. How they were taken away.” A melancholy poem, made more powerful by its indirect approach.

Finally, Alejandro Escude writes in “The First Time I Took My Gun To The Range,” “I looked at the gun and it fired… the bullet went… high / so that it left a poof-dust on the ceiling.” The incident spurs the narrator to contemplate the danger a weapon has, the ease with which one can make a mistake. “I thought, what if the gun / had been aiming at me?” But the poem’s conclusion may surprise you.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Blue Collar Review – Fall 2017

The New Yorker – Jan 22 2018

Rattle 58 – Winter 2017

Read Full Post »


So much reportage these days focuses on the high tech and financial worlds, it’s nice to have the Blue Collar Review to put us back in touch with the hard workers who built it all, those with integrity making their way in a hostile world.

“Then there was my Dad,” Robert Cooperman writes in “The Men in Our Apartment House,” “a blocker in the millenary (sic.) trade, / his hands… and arms / a drunken spider’s web / of scars and burns.” So much of life is tougher than our myths admit. We all hope to actualize ourselves, to find meaningful work. But there’s a reason they pay us, and there are hard realities out there, and these poems reflect that, honoring, as Cooperman does, those who went before.

Steve Hartman understands this well. “Junior Management Trainee starts, “Where are all the glamorous groovy jobs / you see in sitcoms that require no experience…?” This is a wry and amusing view of truth versus image. “I’m tired of working with idiotic sidekicks…”, but “the Personnel Director…wants to know…what makes me more qualified / than the two thousand other applicants…” Humor arises from truth, right? So it would seem here.

These poems can be downright harsh, as they challenge us. Sarah M. Lewis starts out her poem, “Owned,” with: “Bosses want you / to understand they own you… not just the time you’re paid for… weekends, holidays, after work hours.” This poem cries out for justice, with a sense that the worker must battle for dignity and right.

Yet there is beauty as well. In Olivia Inwood’s “Artist,” we have: “Trains curling around the rocks / and broken masterpieces / blown up by a cannon.” Many different occupations join in the struggle. “art for the working class / art in and of this land”

And also, Jeffrey Alfier’s “The Back Porch at Carter’s Brewery in Billings.” “I hear an empty / beer can rattle over the rails, / blown along by a southerly wind.” A lonesome sound, maybe the essence of these poems right there.

Finally, at the core of it all, we see the relationships between people. In Holly Day’s “The Last Day:” “I watch my son packing his bags and I have to leave… no, I can’t help him because… I can only think of how to fold him / back into the infant he once was.” An archetypal moment for so many of us: “I want / to find some way to do all this over…” Sweet and sad. (Oh, and notice the pun on her own last name).

Very much an issue worth perusing.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Missouri Review – Winter 2017

The New Yorker – Jan 22 2018

Rattle 58 – Winter 2017

 

Read Full Post »