Archive for November, 2018

I like “The Cog in the Machine,” by Burt Raabe, the poem that opens this issue of The Blue Collar Review, among other reasons because it starts in such a blunt, unapologetic way. “I hardface worn Cogs. / It’s a living.” What does ‘hardface’ mean? It could almost be a science fiction poem, but there is no air of the exotic. “A forklift delivers them / in a tub…” We get no background; we are left with the raw facts, some of which we don’t understand, and a sense of the toughness of the life, by how much is left out. Nicely done.

Regina M. Elliott’s “Their Funeral Is Their Retirement Party,” starts with a rhyme scheme: “American workers’ refrain, / sinew and bone some days bound to pain…” But just as the workers in the poem are shown growing older, so that their physical aches start sooner in the day, “his hands and legs start to ache / in the mornings…” so the poem itself seems to get tired, and the rhyme becomes too much to sustain, changing to a near-rhyme in the second verse, then vanishing altogether by the third. A nice trick.

J.C. Alfier has a poem empowered by sound, “Mojave Music.” “…the Union Pacific hammers out of its railyard, / gaining speed toward Barstow.” We feel the heat the narrator endures. “I wake each hour to a sleepless / cadence.” There is a profound alienation here, the the narrator doesn’t know exactly why. “Haven’t picked up the wrong woman at a bar.” It’s very lyrical. “One a.m. / Sounds ripen.” I like that. An eerie poem.

Lanette Sweeney talks about the gulf between classes, in “Code Cracking.” “They’ve got all the / foreign names / you need to know — / artists, opera singers…” The narrator must learn the alien code of a different class: “names you must know / like passwords / to gain entry…” It’s a beautifully rendered description of the dilemma of those trying to rise up. “Like any ex-pat, you don’t fit / in either country…”

Finally, Andrena Zawinski confronts the gun violence in our country, with “Irregular Pulse Beat Sonnet.” “The relentless drone of the daily news, / sends the pulse racing…” It’s a hard-eyed view of our culture. “In days of the dead, the gunman cackled / loading, reloading, riveting bodies…” A powerful, sad indictment of our country’s choices.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

My book 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:

Apple Valley Review – Fall 2018

Convergence – Summer 2018

Blue Collar Review – Winter 2017-18

Read Full Post »

Bibhu Padhi has three poems in the current issue of The Apple Valley Review. First is “Evening, Bhubaneswar.” It starts, “Floating above the rice fields, / the jackfruit trees, // evening comes / and gets into our dark houses // where ghosts stay, / poems are made.” There is something ethereal, magical, about this poem, a sort of floating-above-the-ground feel. The narrator anticipates changes, anticipates revelations, without knowing exactly what is to happen. “From a distant village
comes a song that // speaks about lost things. / A wind from the north arrives…” The power of the poem comes, I think, from the grounding in immediate images, as you can see. Exotic and intriguing. The second poem is almost an extension of the first. “Ghosts” starts out: “They enter, milk-white, / the dark house, full of poems // written by thin, wiry hands. / The nights come back // again and again, teasing / my sense of time.” Very powerful work.

Ananda-mayi dasi gives us “Onset” — “We’re in summer: our beds pocked / with dead songbirds: grey understatements.” As you can see, the images surprise us, going in unexpected directions. The poem then takes up the description of a girl hanging from a noose. The narrator herself? Then a reference to her brother, digging in the garden. It’s a short work, but one that makes us think.

I like the metaphor in the first line of “Autumn Has Come,” by Aura Christi: “A night fallen on its muzzle, like a cringing animal.” It  shocks us into paying attention, and the following lines are equally complex and intriguing: ” I no longer know when I lived / and if ever I’ll live again, God, /
what dream, what life, what story I’ll awaken in…” A poem tackling the big questions, ambitious, not afraid to jostle and creak around the edges. Even the turn is this way, unadorned, concentrated, wanting to get on with it: “It’s important to keep waiting.” A strong work.

Finally, Ed Bok Lee gives us “Reading in Bed Is Like Heaven,” which may be the poetry title I am most in agreement with, ever. Despite being short, this poem is elusive, perhaps hinting that what we read enters our dreams, changes us. “And now I see it’s not the meanings I loved most / demolishing each labyrinth flooded with belief, // but the quandaries…” So much to contemplate, and to enjoy, here.

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:

Convergence – Summer 2018

The Sun – Sept, 2018

Rattle 61 – Fall, 2018

P.S. Here’s the link to the magazine, though you’ll have to hunt down volume 13, # 2 once the current issue gets archived: https://www.applevalleyreview.com/


Read Full Post »