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Archive for June, 2019


Sandy pointed out, after reading the Summer 2019 issue of Rattle Magazine, that many poems are basically little short stories. An interesting observation, I thought.

Certainly we can follow along to “How To Date A White Boy,” by Amy Alvarez. “Never be the first. You are no one’s enigma / or experiment.” I’m sensing a certain bite behind the words already. “If you meet his parents, prepare / for disappointment.” It’s not a narrative exactly, but more a commentary on a narrative subtext. A very understated, powerful, work, with a perfect ending.

Marvin Artis gives us a fun, sexy little metaphor poem, “Poetry.” “Right now we’re polyamorous… I have to find my own way with her.” So many dual-meaning statements, each one more amusing than the last. My favorite is probably: “I told her that most of the time… she’s confusing and all over the place. / She told me I was supposed to love her mystery.” Or maybe, “…tell me who you are, she said. But don’t preach to me…” Great fun.

I liked the linkages in Catherine Bresner’s “Canvasser.” “And in the middle of my grief / a puddle — / and in the middle of a puddle / a penny…” Sort of the structure of the Mockingbird song. She goes some very intriguing places, and the images strike up a great resonance.

Matt Farrell’s “Sky Blue” is another story poem. “That summer after high school we did nothing / of use to anyone.” Love where he placed that enjambment. “We skateboarded along the flat streets.” It’s a lazy poem of youth and lost moments, small triumphs and dares that fizzle away. And then a deep shock. Beautifully written.

Stephanie A. Hart gives us a poignant poem, “The Purse,” about a mother emptying out her purse and reflecting on what she finds. “The purple / matchbox car / hit the table / hardest… errant pencil tips / and battered / baby barrettes…” It becomes a search of the mother for herself, in that most intimate of places, her own purse. “Nothing was hers.” Even the discovery at the end fits the theme perfectly.

Finally, let me mention Morgan Kovacs’ “An Abecedarian For The Unmentionable.” “About the time I turned 20 / babies began looking cute… I imagine someday / cuddling my own baby to my chest.” I love how the first word of each line is especially resonant to the theme of the poem, yearning, hope, disappointment, loss. “…I felt comfort in my / period, and I / quit hating my body.” Such a powerful, sad poem. Very much worth reading.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – May 20 2019

Nimrod International Journal – Winter 2018

The Missouri Review – Winter 2018

 

 

 

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Stanley Moss’ poem, “I’m Sorry,” in this issue of The New Yorker, riffs on the idea of debt. “I’m sorry, exhausted, except for funds. / I wrote a check, the date October 18…” The narrator reflects on how making amends is like owing a debt, on how the process of writing a check can be a metaphor for the debts we owe our friends, and on how the process always seems messy, when filling out a check or saying I am sorry. “I don’t get it right, I leave off years.” The turn moves to considering the way someone else handles their life’s debts. “I’m sure a poet I love… never bounced a check.” And the whole poem ends with an image reflecting on loss. A crisp, professional poem, worthy of the New Yorker.

Anna McDonald has the other poem in the issue, “Cairn At 4 A.M.,” which starts, “Not the Snoo or the Dock-A-Tot or / the Moses basket… no, if you are a small, new human, the full-grown / human body is the best place to sleep.” A paean to the narrator’s child, sleeping on her lap. What it feels like, the weight, the discomfort, the joy. How the mother becomes completely in service to the child. “I have learned what my body is for.” I love the image of the parent as cairn onto which the child is placed as top rock of the pile, together, touching yet independent, slowly creating a marker for the world to see, as guidance, perhaps. There’s a fun sweetness to this poem, the power and completeness of what really matters in life, with a wonderful ending, alien and familiar, shocking and true, and quiet but profound. What else can we ask of a poem?

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – Apr 29 2019

Apple Valley Review – Spring 2019

The Missouri Review – Winter 2018

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