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Archive for February, 2019


“My Father In English,” by Richard Blanco, is a beautiful homage to the narrator’s father, who came to the U.S. from Cuba. “First half of his life lived in Spanish: the long syntax / of montanas that lined his village…” What a wonderful idea, and Blanco works it splendidly. “the second half… in English — the vernacular of New York City sleet, neon, glass.” I love those nouns one two three, punch punch punch, presenting such a contrast to his Cuban life. The narrator then focuses on his father’s favorite English word, indeed, and what that word might have meant to him. “the man who died without true translation.” A sweet, powerful poem.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths has the other poetry slot in this mag, which she fills with “Heart Of Darkness.” “Years ago I went to Noho Star / with some poets & Cecil Taylor… Cecil died yesterday. I walked / to Union Square and watched black / men play chess.” I love the enjambment there. Black what? We have to wait that extra half moment to learn. Think of how the possibilities open up there, the challenge the poet accepts: ‘can you fill this beautifully?’ and then she surprises us as she does, doing something we all might do when mourning someone, walking, taking in the world. Very much a yes. “a face so musical / I could hear the notes blunting / & banging.” It is a precious thing to know someone who can encompass, become the apotheosis of an entire art form. There is so much beauty and loss in this poem. “I remembered / later when we stood on the sidewalk, / sugar & poetry.” He is sugar, she poetry? So many ways to read that line. A moving, important poem.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

My book of poems, Against The Night, a wry look at the way love builds through time, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Convergence Online Journal – Winter 2018

Missouri Review – Fall, 2018

The New Yorker – July 23, 18

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This issue of Convergence, the final issue, sadly, opens with “Memory Wisp,” by Michaela Erwin. “The music box sat on / the window ledge in / Grandma’s room.” The poem draws a line from the music box, and the narrator’s love of it as a child, to her love of her grandmother. “I would hum / the melody for Grandma while / she stood tall and brunette / with wisps of gray.” With the turn, it’s decades later, the music box is covered in dust, and we sense the narrator herself feels as worn and creaky as that old toy. A nicely done poem.

“Patina,” by Roger G. Singer, has some splendid lines in it. “It was called, / ‘The Hotel’… The lobby exhibited signs of / artistic death.” We can immediately see that lobby, the worn furniture, the dusty drapes. “Strips of wallpaper peeling / Like a melting glacier.” A reminder of how incisive and insightful images can power a poem to grand heights.

Kara Synhorst has a trio of affecting poems about life in Colorado in 1921. “Arkansas To Colorado 1921” starts out: “The Kansas City Star ran the ad — / A farmer looking for a wife. / She wrote him two letters / Before she hopped on the train.” Plain-spoken poems detailing a simple life, catching our attention with sympathy for the trying circumstances, and how the characters soldiered on. I liked these poems, especially the sudden way they end, with last, small details that serve to sum up the entire experience.

“The Procession,” by Holly Day, is an amazing poem. “When we were little, my best friend and I used to hold funerals for roadkill.” They are children, with children’s somewhat callous view of the world. “really / we just thought it looked like fun.” But then the messy world intrudes. “Once, a raven we tossed into the hole / moved its beak and croaked at us, not yet dead.” The delicacy of the real concern this stirs, mixed up with the unconcern of children for a wild animal who they are supposed to be honoring, is delicious. The twist of what happens to the raven, and how the children react, raises this poem above the usual. And then a marvelous last stanza, with a great, spooky ending.

Finally, I enjoyed “A Hole In The Hum,” by Evan Myquest. “If there’s ever / Five minutes of silence / in the conversation / That’s me joining in.” As I have said, I love humor in a poem, the irreverent take on life. This meditation on silence is like that. “A vow of silence is / wasted if your sandaled footfalls / slap on the monastery floor.”

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

P M F Johnson’s book of poems, Against The Night, a wry look at the way love builds through time, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Hummingbird 28.2

Missouri Review – Fall, 2018

Iconoclast – #117

 

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Mary Ellen Talley starts us out in this issue with two poems, “Red #1” and “Red #2”. They work together for me, each very short, but displaying the same structure and so creating resonance. The first opens with “The bruise at its beginning…” the next with “By now the core / of the apple…” Both beginnings contrast against the second parts of their poems, and since they come right after the other, the reader can go back and forth, taking them almost as one work, almost like a cross-stitch. It’s an interesting exercise to mush two separate poems together that way.

Benjamin L. Perez gives us a few “Fragments From / The Love Songs of Hades.” Again, these are in a series, and so bounce off each other. “Eos,” is the first fragment: “Play yourself, like a lyre.” The fragments use subtle rhymes. “Elegos” is two couplets, “Heavier poise, silent-echo; / Heavier peace, blinding shadow.” being the first one. With so few words, we can concentrate on the ones we have, meditate on them, roll them around on the tongue.

In fact, with many of these poems, what is left out is more than half the effect. That sure seems true with Beatrix Gates’ poem: “Dear Half, // I feel the unwound / cave heart / that does not speak.” What of the other half, we wonder. What might the cave say if it did speak?

But other poems, like Jane Stuart’s “Slippery leaf / caught in the corner..” are a complete meditation unto themselves; all is there for us. It is the silence after the poem that reveals the resonance.

Finally, one of my absolute favorites of this issue is Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff’s “my first visit / to father’s grave…” which has a semi-amusing, semi-shocking, and maybe even semi-poignant twist. Certainly there’s much to think about here, in this bite-sized little poem.

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:

Missouri Review – Fall, 2018

Iconoclast – #117

Rattle 62 – Winter 2018

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