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Posts Tagged ‘Hummingbird Magazine’


There are so many good poems in this issue. The “Anxiety Monster” series of poems by Emilie Lindemann made me think. In “Anxiety Monster 8,” we get “there is nothing but body. / seaweed-sponge surface / the kicky legs.” Many images that make you stop and think. Why does this make the narrator anxious? Just watching her children swim, maybe? Or, in 12, “But even wheelbarrows of thistles / can’t cover her up (not for keeps…)” So engaging. In 14: “…you trail a kick-line of women…” I very much enjoyed revisiting these little poems.

The danger of reviewing such short poems (Hummingbird is “The Magazine of the Short Poem,” after all) is that many wonderful poems cannot be quoted to show their beauty, as that would pretty much reveal the whole work. But let me mention “Circle Ceremony at the Highground,” by Jane-Marie Bahr. It shows us an awkward moment, a touching act of kindness and respect despite a tongue-tied instant. All in 5 lines.

Jane Vincent Taylor’s “The Woman Who Makes More of Everything.” “I say I’m tired of this shade of red. / She says that color used to sing / at night.” This poem reveals a beautiful, touching moment. Spare and elegant.

Chet Corey gives us “Field Note,” an observation about birds any one of us could have made, but he is the one who did. And we can only say ‘yes, that’s true, you are right. Thank you for pointing that out.’ How fun.

Hummingbird wants to challenge and stretch the form of poetry, and the poem of Kim Kayne Shaver, “Thirty Minute Backyard Rensaku” does so as presented. Rensaku are a series of haiku that contemplate a single subject from different angles. The fun thing about these three haiku is they may be four haiku instead. The middle poem is divided down the middle by the page break; so the reader does not know whether to read the words as two haiku, one on the left page and one on the right, or as one haiku stretching across the pages. Joining two spaces. I choose to believe it must be read both ways at once, a Shrodinger’s cat of a haiku. One is left not knowing if the poet intended this, the editor intended this, or they collaborated. One is left with a happy uncertainty, and a sense of incompleteness, that fits with the aesthetic of haiku nicely.

The juxtaposition of Frederick Wilbur’s “Autumn Leaf,” and Joan Halpin’s “First Week of Spring,” seems so exact and correct. From his “At the verge of the darkened forest,” to her “beneath the heavy sky / I teeter around pools of / slush.” Just wonderful to read them one after the other, back and forth.

And there are many other good poems (Bruce Ross’ two haiku) in here. Definitely worth picking up and enjoying.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Rattle 60 – Summer 2018

Blue Collar Review – Winter 2017-18

The Nation – Apr 9 2018

 

 

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The poems in Hummingbird Magazine are often captured moments, sudden discoveries and delights. All are very short, no more than a dozen lines or so.

The first poem in the issue, “Fresh Snow,” by Ann Spiers, strikes me this way. “A rush of finches / beaking off cherry blossoms. We move / our picnic… north for this” The contrast of snow and a picnic keeps me coming back, like trying to solve a little puzzle.

Ellen Welcker presents a fine moment in “Leona Carrington’s Self Portrait.” “It’s rare that someone paints herself only to find / she has painted you.” She develops this idea amusingly at first, (“Terrible shirt underneath”) but ends with a surprising moment of strength and challenge.

Kristina Pfleegor starts us in one direction, “twenty years of sun / score her face…” but ends with almost a whipsaw twist, despite being contained in a 17 syllable/three line format.

Teresa Mei Chuc writes a macabre little fantasy about a hummingbird making itself too much at home. “Last night the legs of a hummingbird pushed through…”

Reviewing such an issue obviously has its own challenge, trying to give a taste of the flavor of the poems but not too much away. Let me only say that there are many more little gems here which I would heartily recommend as well, each a joy to dip into.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The Missouri Review – Fall 2017

The New Yorker – Nov 20, 17

The Cape Rock – 45.2

 

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Each time I read “Spring Cleaning,” by Hannah Marshall, in the current issue of Hummingbird, it gets a little deeper. Always a good quality in a poem. “Shaking winter / from rag rugs…I look up to see the day go fuzzy in gray rain.” It’s a poem of very specific images, and that grounding keeps the reader engaged. Cleaning the rug corresponds to rain cleaning the world. “Snow salt… wash(es) down the hill…to unearth bluebells.” Then the poet gives a sudden, strong twist at the end, with an image that gives explanation to why this is all important. Well done.

All the poems in this magazine are short, which tends to make them compact, precise, and often powerful. JoAnn Chang gives us an untitled poem, starting: “The trees outside the nursing home / are tied to metal stakes // for fear …” and what the fear is gives us a twist of whimsy, and a touch of the apocalypse both. Quite a trick in such a short and image-driven poem.

Lenore McComas Coberly gives us “Unreported,” a poem about maintaining perspective. “blooming marigolds…hunker down…while autumn hail…” Again here, in a quick little poem, it is the turn that gives this poem its understated power. The marigolds do not figure in the larger world, true, but the larger world does not figure for the marigolds either. A clever way to show that off.

There are a number of haiku in the magazine, mostly in the 5-7-5 syllable format, too short to comment on for the most part. But one I will mention is by Bill Pauly. “miles of cornfields — they’ve left one tree…” Just that image and a half spreads itself around in my imagination, setting the stage for the all-important last line that of course completes and makes the haiku work.

Karla Huston has a clear-eyed view of nature as we really experience it, in “Winter On Winnebago.” “Just when you think you’ll never be done with it, the ice pulls back…” But what the ice reveals is not necessarily what we expect. Surprise is important in any poem, to keep us engaged. And Huston uses a trick I believe Henri Cole once mentioned: to present a final image, and then not explain it. It works its power here.

Finally, Jeri McCormick’s three linked poems here give a child’s view of the world, and it is a place fraught with childhood troubles, under a pretty facade. “she knocks on our door…such a cute girl,knocks on our such a cute girl, Mother says to me…go play.” Sweet, but then, “we play dolls she slaps kicks throws them against the wall…” Wow. A tremendous tension fills these poems, handled masterfully.

A great issue.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of love poems, Against The Night, is available on Amazon, at https://www.amazon.com/Against-Night-Poems-PMF-Johnson-ebook/dp/B01LXQX9Y5/ as well as at other fine e-retailers.

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I haven’t blogged a Hummingbird Mag before, I don’t believe. The magazine publishes short poetry, much of it quite elegant. The first poem in the issue is “The Lion,” by Megan Snyder-Camp. On first glance, this looks like a fun little poem. But with more consideration, darkness moves beneath it. “Since kindergarten / my son’s class has practiced // for when a lion / enters the building.” Wow.

Ellen Welcker has a series of poems scattered through the magazine, all named “The Sheep.” “O euphemistic failure… a sphincter relaxing.” Each poem presents another piece of the whole. E.g. “A gaze may seek to rest…” and “All her layers of construction.” So the series keeps pulling the reader back in: Oh, there’s more here. Oh, there’s even more. How do these poems relate to each other? How is this sheep getting described, bit by bit? An interesting way of challenging us.

Furthermore, John Burgess does a similar thing, with each of his poems describing a guest bedroom he slept in. But he ups the ante by including drawings of each room he is describing. “Dead birch rotted,” is one image described. Then “It’s quiet (No one else / in the basement…” With that, we realize he’s giving impressions he’s had in each room. His varying experiences. So despite such similar constructions, we are left with very different takeaways from the efforts of the two poets.

I very much enjoyed Jeri McCormick’s untitled poem. “heading home from a winter visit in the mountains…” This poem contains maybe the most words of any in the magazine, though it is still short; a startling moment in life, maybe not life-changing, but maybe that’s the point, that life was not changed, and that can be a very good thing indeed.

I also liked Joanna White’s “She Paints,” entered sideways over two pages. Though not a particularly wide poem, nor particularly long, arranging it this way makes us think of the painter being described. “very nice, /     the grown ups say…” Subtlety in the understatement, here.

And while there are true haiku in this magazine, one poem that struck me with its pair of juxtaposed pure images was “Some Heat” by Joan Halpin. Probably the poem that most jumps off the page in the whole collection.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

P.S. My new ebook of love poems, “Against The Night,” is up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere, if you like that sort of thing. ;->

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