Posts Tagged ‘Holly Day Whispered To A Mason Jar’

Dwight Marsh, one of the long-time editors of Plainsongs, is departing. In honor, the magazine published his poem, “You Can’t Just Look,” which tackles the theme of reading the slush pile to find good work. “you gotta read your way / through forests of pulp… that darken the sunlight.” It’s a loving view of his job, and gives worthy insight to those who do not know the point-of-view of an editor. Clear, concise, even fun: “an inner monkey swinging / from phrase to phrase.”

I was touched by the opening line of Beth Paulson’s “The Red Barn: Watercolor on Paper.” “The barn, before it fell to its knees, / stood tall and strong…” I have seen my share of decaying barns, and there is something magical and mournful about them. I could see how they would make great subjects for painting. “…it leaned, / one wall mostly gone, smelled of dust, rusted tools.” There is a continuity about a barn that lives in few other structures. Nicely captured here.

I loved Shuly Xochitl Cawood’s “If.” “If I were an avocado I could stop rot with the simple pit / of my heart.” It’s a deeply thought-through metaphor that unfolds through the poem, creating a resonance far beyond the words themselves. “I could rise from where my mother once took root.” Wow. “I would cost more / than you would want to pay.” The multiple meanings in each line are worth studying, worth savoring. A brilliant poem, actually.

Holly Day is always solid, and once more so here, with “Whispered To A Mason Jar.” “I’m in love with the little midges / that dance in the sunlight.” It is always a nice change of pace to read a poem not about suffering, death, loss (themes, let me hasten to admit, I delve into myself). This is a beautiful reflection on the world, with layers of meaning and joy. No wonder the editors chose it. “I want to become a creature like that / cavorting in sunbeams.” A wonderful poem.

Then again, Phillip Howerton’s “The Pasture Cemetery” is definitely about dead people, but he keeps us entertained with their attitude about the living, shall we say. “These dead chose their place of rest.” The dead in his poem display some attitude, though not to the extent of any zombies. “No great-grandfather rises from soil / with rotted overalls and collapsed face… perhaps these dead are practical folks.” But it is the last lines of the poem (though I try not to give away endings as a rule) that will raise the hair on the back of your head, even without the rattle of one chain.

And lastly, let me mention Joan Colby’s “Loner.” “I cantered down the bridle path / Along the lake shore.” Again, a poem about a moment, skillfully rendered. “The waves rollicking against the breakwater.” And an epiphany deepens the poem, makes it memorable. “I knew then that being alone did not mean loneliness.” Such strong work.

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:

Star*Line 42.1 – Winter 2019

The Missouri Review – Winter 2018

The New Yorker – Mar 25 & Apr 1, 19



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