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Archive for October, 2018


Poems in The Sun tend to be straightforward, easily understood, with a bite to them. Such is the poem “Jewish Enough,” by Emily Sernaker. “The morning after my fourth-grade teacher / taught my class about the Holocaust… I approached my father.” The thesis is stated right up front, the power of the poem taken from our identifying with a young girl discovering some of the horror of the world, and how powerless each of us is before larger forces. Not a metaphor in sight, no sparkle to the language, just the pile-driving truth. Thank God there is still room for such poetry in our world; a reminder of what we can strive for when we communicate… to change the world, just a little bit, to open a touch of understanding. Not that all poetry should be like this, but some of it always should be. A good poem.

The other poem in the issue is much lighter in spirit, delivering a sweet moment in time. “That Summer Abroad” is by Margaret Hasse. It starts, “Joanne, have we ever been so free as then? / We’d change destinations / on a whim.” A portrait of two young adults, free as they never would be again, discovering. And later, the narrator wishing to go back. “I want to call you up right now, / buy a one-way ticket to Athens…” Again a simple poem, though this one ends with a beautiful image that gives a glimpse into the yearning the narrator feels, the sense of standing apart, being part of a little eternity. It reminds me of journeys I’ve enjoyed, and of why they were so precious.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a wry look at the love that builds throughout a marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Rattle 61 – Fall, 2018

Iconoclast – #116

The New Yorker – Aug 13, 18

 

 

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I just love this magazine. There are semi-goofy story-poems, like Travis Burke’s “Uncle Ivan and the Last Dog Race,” which starts, “‘Well hell.’ / Uncle Ivan always said that after a loss… never hit me like I’d seen some other men there.” Uncle Ivan sounds like a character indeed. “Sometimes we’d go out for a beer… when I was older and Uncle Ivan was dying / one of those long old man deaths.” Wow. Here is a poem that exemplifies why tone matters so much.

And there are poems of indirect emotion, powerfully felt, like Barbara Campbell’s “Tangles.” “…I came home / to find my husband waiting… for his ride an hour / and a half early / and on the wrong day.” The emotion powered by the sudden turn. “Here’s what I love / about ivy. / It’s relentless…” There is a rushing forward feel to this poem, life changing, our being not ready, living in the moment because what else can we do? It is a powerful, touching poem.

Gotta like Kevin Clark’s “Elegy.” “I’ll never forget that punk Cagney jabbing words / like shivs as if he knew everything.” Face it: cool phrases matter in poetry, maybe more than anything else. Made me smile.

There are slice of life poems, like Jackleen Holton’s “Jesus Is My Flu Shot.” “I tried it once, the being saved, /my devout older cousin standing / before me…” The moment when a growing girl gets an insight into the world, the ways of those who claim to be devout.

I’m deeply a fan of Judy Kronenfeld’s “Letter to the Ministry of Loneliness.” “I take round trips on the Tube… I stand up, / for maximum contact… and inhale the steam of coffee and cigarette breaths.” Again the perfect little phrase, yielding insight, emotion, a catch of the breath. It’s a quiet poem, but no less effective for that.

I guess I like these poems so much because they are human poems. They don’t rely on abstractions, or leaps away from whatever engages the writer, they plow forward, exploring the moment, the heart of whatever is happening.

We are carried along as the writers interact with, and come to understand, those in their lives, as Kathryn Petruccelli’s narrator does in her poem, “Lamps.” “My mother used to tell me / there was a time / she kept a closet full of lamps / so whenever one of her kids / broke one…” They are poems about the things that matter. Memories of our family, experiences with them, coming to grips with loss, with the zany humor of life.

One last poem I’ll mention, “Meditation On A Dining Room Table,” by Marvin Artis. “She wanted warm wood. He wanted the sleek and gleam / of glass and steel. They compromised…” The table becomes a way to understand the relationship between this couple, maybe why they break up, maybe how they are still connected in a sort of reflected manner, all these years later.

The latter poem is the first of a section in the magazine dedicated to poets who have never had a poem published before. The way I see it, that takes a certain amount of courage on the part of the editor, hoping the audience will go along with such a concept, to see what appears. I love a magazine that takes such risks.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

Iconoclast – #116

The New Yorker – Aug 13, 18

Rattle 60 – Summer 2018

 

 

Read Full Post »