Posts Tagged ‘Anne Knowles’

Very much enjoyed “Hoop Duet,” by Dennis Trudell, in the Fall issue of Plainsongs. “Story about a young Indian / shooting baskets by himself…when a coyote…” The understated language adds to the power as a young man has a magical moment. We are not given any explanation, but I don’t know that any verbal one is needed. Kind of ironic in a poem. “The boy moved / there and howled.” It was a Plainsongs Award poem, and I can see why.

I enjoyed “cuckoo clock” by Henry Kruslewicz. “my Oma is echt Deutsch / just one look at her dumpling / legs…” The mix of English and German (I don’t read German) gives it such a mysterious flavor, and a depth that adds to the fun. And really, you don’t need to know the language to get much of what is being said: “A finger thick as wurst.” Satisfying.

I am enthralled with “Asymmetric,” by John Peetzke, a sort of chopped-up villanelle. “Such an intriguing feel. / The lake spawns perfect symmetry.” This poem plays with reality and illusion in a most clever way. “A reflection, it isn’t real.” A reflection off the lake? By the narrator? There’s the fun. Then at the end, he reverses, then reverses again, using the form masterfully.

“Wedding Reception,” by Dion Kempthorne, had such a sense of loss, of bad choices made resonating into the far future. “The gilt frame of the cake / photo of her and her ex…” The past and the present mix, and the narrator seems so sad. Powerful.

Linda Taylor’s “My Mother Steps Off the Train in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, 1942” is worth reading and re-reading. “Two steps, and she is down, in dirt / soft with chickweed.” Hopes, fears, the specter of poverty, of nameless fears, all are implied, but the poem itself is grounded powerfully in plain images. “floods of mayflies… with netted, burnished wings… Her shoes crunch on them.” Wow.

But finally, my fav poem (and my wife’s, for that matter) in the magazine is Anne Knowles’ “Ironing.” “Mother sprinkled clothes, dampness / and fold and roll…” Just a description of a common task, but the language brings it so alive. Listen to the sounds: “garments / snapped out…the iron / thump thump thumping…wire hanger hooks / clicking” The knowledge of the task revealed: “boldness and the delicacy / of necessary restraint.” Yes. The moment is real. Brava!

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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This season’s Plainsongs boasts poems by several seasoned poets. Let me start with Ruth Berman’s “Flawed X-Ray” — “The diamond ring is dark / Upon the bones…” a properly spooky start to this quick little poem, and the shiver continues throughout “…spread forever on the film…” to a powerful ending.

Just beneath this on the page is Lyn Lifshin’s “Emily Dickinson,” which does not pay direct homage through rhyme schemes and short little verses. Instead it portrays her almost in movie terms: “moves past the mirror / that’s mostly black… A dark splotch gulps even the / amber in her eyes…” Strong images that build to a satisfying conclusion.

Another strong poet in this magazine is Ed Galing, who gives us “First Born,” a touching description of the narrator at his son’s birth, fears and all: “i had the feeling that / it was all wrong / i wasn’t meant to be a father…” with the deft contrast to everyone else in the room being evidently thrilled “all smiling / shaking hands…oogling the little / brat” that last word like a slap. Then we go on to a second poem, “My Son At Sixty” for a second look at the relationship between these two people: “his hair is thinning / on the sides…I look at him / curiously / thinking…he /resembles my own / father…” Note the subtle use of enjambment, line after line ending at a precipice, we don’t know where the poet is going with his next word, the work winding down the page like the reflections of the poet himself. A great loss when this poet passed. We’ll miss him.

“Cocoa,” by Anne Knowles, is a very enjoyable poem, the nitty gritty of a dignified, working life. “the cocoa / yielding to his ministrations / as to a sermon.”

Finally, JW Major gives us “Jump,” which starts as a portrait of a fascinating man. “his comedy deadpan, bulgy-eyed…smiling / like a cheap-made devil.” My wife and I once bought a work of folk art in Santa Fe, a woman being whooshed off on the back of a bicycle, the devil at the wheel. This poem starts us off with that same slant humor, but then the poem goes deeper: “I turn sunshine gray, he said….Now he’s not here but is here more than before…” and slowly we realize the poem isn’t about him at all, but about her: “I’m on the condo pool deck, the widow, / character from a movie with the old lady hair-do” and the skilled turn makes this a tremendously powerful poem, with an ending that takes your breath away.”

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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