Posts Tagged ‘Allison Hutchcraft Swale’

The first poet in this issue of The Missouri Review, Allison Hutchcraft, seems to feel the world in herself and herself in the world. “Swale” starts: “In my winter by the sea, I fashioned / a new habit… walking… through mud and leafless alder, their branches // cupped by the plush green of mosses…” I like where the enjambment of the first line happens. Not after winter, when we are struck by decline; not after the sea, where we would pause to imagine the landscape; but in a place that drags us along to see what is being created here. Subtle and cool. And I like that word ‘plush,’ not the perhaps more expected ‘soft,’ or some other more commonplace word. So, what is being created here? “the marshy banks transformed / by that lunar clockwork // on which my hours turned.” The narrator puts herself in this world, she is changed as it is changed. She belongs. “the water looked like the creek I felt in me.” The dissolving of the separation between self and world becomes powerful, mysterious, beckoning us into a place where not all can be understood by the mind, it must be channeled through the body. “When I swale,” she says, becoming the landscape, a landscape that acts on its world. A fascinating poem.

Chris Hayes’ world is also front and center in his poetry. “Heartland” starts, “I’m talking to R. about… wildfires, Trump, Nicaragua, / moving from one slice of unnatural disaster to the infinite next.” This world is more jumbled, encompassing a wider swath, and perhaps forming more judgments as it goes. I admire the adjectives chosen, ‘unnatural’ and ‘infinite.’ Not words I expected, and I like a surprise or two in poetry, when they fit the line, and deepen the meaning. His world flows past, perhaps surprising the narrator as well. “It occurs to me that we haven’t heard from Kansas in a while.” There is a gap here between ideal and reality. “we all have to get along but don’t really.” And of course, there is humor. “where else might we go besides ecumenical Wichita.” A light touch about serious subjects: how we live with each other, and can we remain as one.

The third poet in this issue is David Kirby, one of our most esteemed poets. His poem “High School” starts, “It would have been a joke if prisons were jokes.” Certainly most of us have felt that about school at one time or another. The shared experience draws us along. He has sympathy for the teachers. “our science teachers meant well…” but “As far as / social studies, forget it.” It’s a poem about limitations. “None of us could / sing at all. We should have practiced more…” And, being about a high school boy, of course it veers into fantasy before the end. A fun, sweet poem that made me smile.

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:

Iconoclast – Issue #118

Plainsongs – Summer 2019

The New Yorker – Aug 19, 19


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