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Archive for May, 2018


Two poems appear in this issue of The Nation, the first by Jose A. Rodriguez: “Translating an Autopsy, or To the Man Autopsied Into 99 Pages.” Kind of a clunky title, but I liked the beginning. “Please know that I read them all and could not weep…” The poem dances between two tones, that of describing a murder scene from an amused and cynical novel, and the more subtle horror of realizing that scenes like this appear every day, they are no exaggeration. “…the rudimentary outline of a / male body the size of an action-figure with wounds / marked X on your torso.” The further into the poem we go, the more the horror becomes real. “splatters on the wall dripping every synonym / of pain.” The ending comes as a shock, twists the meaning of the poem from a murder due to some drug deal gone bad, or a violent turf struggle, into something else. The epiphany catches our heart. A powerful poem.

The second poem is “Courage,” by Nate Klug. “Stillness until six, the yards and porches / giant toy sets…” This is a poem that rewards close attention. A short poem about the briefness and fragility of life. “Each sleep a baffling practice / for leaving you behind…” Well, when we think about it, yes, sleep can be seen as a practice for death. But the poet stays in the moment, with images that almost fragment the scene, giving us only brief clues to what we are seeing. So much erased, but with the essentials remaining. The poem lured me into a sort of meditation. Pretty cool.

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:

Convergence Online Journal – Spring 2018

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

The Cape Rock – 46

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

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This issue of Convergence Online Journal contains a wonderful sestina by Carol Louis Moon, “Accepting The Temporary.” “I stared at the cat for hours,” it begins, “… with all that means. // But meaning is only temporary…” Moon goes beyond the minimal requirements of a sestina (to reuse the final words of each line of a stanza in each subsequent stanza) adding much circular complexity, doubling back, mulling things from different perspectives. “…the cat circles round itself.” It’s a great use of the form, to keep coming back to touchstones, which touchstones shift on us, in a poem with a theme of the temporary. “one considers the way // life spends itself away.” This poem alone is worth looking up. I give the link to the magazine below.

Viola Weinberg gives us “Spirit Garden,” chock-full of wonderful images. “the 8′ cannas / blazing red, with firecracker throats… and a tepee of willow / in a sea of tomatoes.” Makes me ache and long to get out in the garden, digging my fingers into loam. Sometimes, it’s enough for a poem just to celebrate. “O, the song of it, the symphony / and happy chaos of growing things.”

I liked Darren C. Demaree’s “Poem for Katie, Queen of Ohio #49,” which begins, “I could
canister // my ghosts…” What a great way to start. It’s a short poem, worked out beautifully.

“Fish Tank,” by Scott Laudati, tells of an absurd moment in an otherwise sad incident. “i believed in everything… except when you told me / your tree had been cursed.” Such naiveté of course often leads to misunderstandings at best, disaster at worst. This tale might fall somewhere in the middle, though it has dour moments. “and the crowd cheered as the noose tightened.” Very worth reading.

Many poems in Convergence have a seasonal theme, and one I liked was “Renewal,” by Ann Wehrman. “Through the windows of the bus… bones of winter trees interminable.” But spring does appear, and with it a burst of fun images. “Magnolias bloom like coy southern belles.”

And finally, “Locks Off,” by John Zedolik. “The hasps of March / have swung, knocking / the rust of winter…” An excellent way to start a poem about changing seasons.

The link to the magazine: Convergence Online Journal

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:

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

The Cape Rock – 46

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

 

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Has anyone else noticed that we seem to be having a steady changing of the guard in poetry? It may be that a generation’s worth of editors has been retiring, and now we are seeing… if not new blood, at least younger blood… in the pages of our periodicals. The Yale Review, Prairie Schooner, there are many mags where this is happening.

The New Yorker is part of this change, at least on the editorial side. We’ll see how it plays out with new poets, and maybe new approaches. I like it, myself.

The first poem in this issue is “Girlhood,” by Cecily Parks. “was when I slept in the woods / bareheaded beneath jagged / stars.” I like jagged stars. They seem like that, at night. Not cuddly, but alien and maybe a bit inimical. Parks does not sustain this arms-length approach however: “when I was known / by the lilac I hid beside.” We are so enthralled with the pastoral stuff that the essential mystery of such a line may pass us by. But her insistence that more is going on here finally catches us up: “when that lilac, / burdened by my expectations of lilacs, / began a journey…” And the essential alien nature of her world returns with a jolt. We have to jump into a metaphorical reading. Is it the memory of the lilac going away? Is it childhood itself that is passing? Puzzling out the meaning of what had seemed a plain, straightforward poem casts us back again and again over the lines, so that when the heartbreaks of the last line appear, we are ready. A deeply meditative poem.

The second poem is “June,” by Alex Dimitrov. “There will never be more of summer / than there is now.” Boy, it’s fun to have a first line to just stop and reflect on, like that. It’s like we get to dive deep into the season, which let’s face it by this time of year we are more or less yearning for. But the narration carries us forward. “Walking alone / through Union Square I am carrying flowers… to a party where I’m expected.” Such a sense of belonging here. This city, the familiar city, whose quirks are referenced (with a smile) in passing. “It’s Sunday and the trains run on time.” The narrator is charmed, though there may be a bit of a question whether he can be happy alone. But he participates fully. “People do know they are alive.” A celebratory poem, that acknowledges the city’s difficulties, as the world’s difficulties, but shrugs them off for the moment. In this poem, hope and possibility also have a central place. A joy of a poem to read.

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:

The Cape Rock – 46

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

The New Yorker – Apr 2 2018

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