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Posts Tagged ‘Denise Bell’


I think I am starting to figure out Rattle‘s approach. They like plainspoken poetry, easy to understand. They don’t buy things for the flashy language alone, generally each poem has to have a point, though fine language is key as well, of course. This approach makes for some very good poetry reading, of course.

The first poem, “Canis Interruptus,” is by Jose A. Alcantara. “We put him outside; / he claws the paint off the door.” A poem about trying to civilize a puppy. Easy to relate to, if one has ever had a young dog. It’s a fun poem: “he’s on the bed… shoving his nose / in the most noseworthy places.” A fine poem, indeed.

Denise Bell gives us a powerful poem, “I Am The Shit AKA Used To Be / A Bop.” “my man slow down / drinking fast gets you high.” A poem about a man who has lived life on his own terms. “i was never on my knees begging / counting chump change…” But there is a cost to the way he has lived, and the reader has to wonder if he is even aware. “my son is… ungrateful… he had the guts to tell me i was never around… i put him through college…” A magnificent rendering of character, by a proven master of language and observation.

David Berman gives us a slice of life with his poem, “The Cat’s Fancy.” “…he knows — the sink is where I rinse / off dishes… Yet I can’t convince / him… to take postprandial rests away from there.” Ah, life with a cat, who sees what one is doing and wants to redirect the energy. Often to the cat. More a sweet poem than a humorous one, with the cat giving its human insight into life.

Elizabeth J. Coleman turns an unpleasant encounter on its head, in “The Errand.” “…a guy in an old car turned left into / my path.” They exchange shouts, he calls her an epithet, then we get the reversal. “I was glad he spoke, found a way to say hello.” Irony? We are not sure. The narrator then discusses how her child is learning to communicate. A subtle put-down, but also a way to enlarge our thinking about such encounters. It gives the poem an unusual depth, and us a reason to reflect. And let me just mention in passing this is a good example of how putting a reversal in the storyline of a poem can make it more powerful. Fiction techniques can be helpful in poetry as well.

I’m going to mention Susan J. Erickson’s “Antique Road Show,” a longer poem discussing the narrator’s fascination with the TV show. “He hands the appraiser two vases, explains in a voice like chipped crockery that his wife bought (them).” Erickson does a wonderful job of letting the poem unfold at its own pace, bringing us into the stories the participants on the show tell of the pieces they have, the knowledge she has gained from watching (and thereby the love she has for it all). “By now I know someone / will show up with a stone sculpture purchased as a relic / from the Yucatan…” Once she has fully set the hook, she reels us in by turning the tale to her own self and the humble things she owns, that her father collected. And then gives us a sudden twist revelation, and ends the poem. Purely professional work, this poem, open and revealing, and tender and sorrowful. Delivering the emotion a fine work of art can deliver.

Deborah P. Kolodji, a wonderful haiku writer, gives us four haiku. “sandblasted / by your words…” one starts. Powerful images.

Finally, Charlotte Matthews gives us “Kmart’s Closing.” “and everything’s on sale. / Even the bathmats look beleaguered.” Wow. The power of the exact right phrase. Having just seen a Macy’s close in our neighborhood, that word beleaguered is perfect. It’s true, raises that lost emotion, and keeps us reading for more. The tone is exquisite here. “Me and the plum tree are done for.” Folksy, as a discussion of Kmart should be. And then with a beautiful turn at the end, and an expansion to a larger view. Worth the candle.

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:

Blue Collar Review – Summer 2018

Apple Valley Review – Fall 2018

Rattle 61 – Fall, 2018

 

 

 

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