Posts Tagged ‘Iconoclast Magazine’

The two poems that begin this issue have gotten into my head and resonated. Always good. “An Architect’s Life,” by Harry Compton, begins “Life itself is / a continuous remodeling job… trying to keep options open / in case we discover a structural surprise.” Very apt, to my way of thinking, as the surprises contractors discover when they tear out the old walls or pull out the old concrete can be suddenly, horrendously expensive, and “the only certainty seems to be our / inexhaustible personal ignorance.” An enjoyable poem, with a wry, pointed ending.

The next poem is “Coney Island,” by Eugene Carrington. “The mind drifts to Coney Island / the scent of ocean waters / the joyful shrieks… the high-pitched squeals…” A poem of deep place, bringing in the sights and sounds, the people, the temporary nature of it all. A poem to make us turn back to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Coney Island of the Mind,” with its similar sense of loss, time passing…

I like the dialectical nature of “Headlines From The Times,” by E.P. Fisher. “He said: lay-off, pay-off, one-way ticket… / She said: beauty, color, innocence…” A poem chock-full of images, and thoughts to bring you up short. “But after Pentagon budget loopholes for top-secret holocausts…” There’s a lot going on here that’s worth the price of entry.

Matthew J. Spireng presents us with “Black Vultures, New Paltz.” “The view at breakfast / on the second floor / of the Bakery is… roofs where black vultures / perch on each chimney.” What a great image. I can see those heavy, clumsy, patient beasts, waiting like death for the next mistake. And Spireng has a strong image to finish.

“Brother William’s War” is a poignant offering from Amy Sparks. “My brother William / Lives in my garage… His wife kicked him out / After he threw a bowl of potato salad.” A delicate, indirect look at the cost of war on a personal, practical level. “We talked and fished / Before purple scalloped clouds / From the west / Filtered in.” I love that image. A great poem.

Finally, let me mention Rhoda Staley’s “Upon Seeing a Ripe Fig.” “I doubt the apple. // Passionless / a woman can caress / the puritanically austere.” What a great beginning. It shocks you into paying attention. Staley has a deft mastery of the powerful punch, and though the poem is short, it fully satisfies.

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 New Yorker – Aug 13, 18

The New Yorker – July 23, 18

Rattle 60 – Summer 2018


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I got a good chuckle out of Rhoda Staley’s “A Golfball,” in the latest Iconoclast. “A golfball / a dimpled homunculus…” it begins. This is a concrete poem, shaped in the form of a golf ball, as you might guess. The narrator takes an amused, even sexy view of men and their golfing addiction. “time to bed savvy guys while / the boys are chasing them- / selves.”

I liked both John O’Dell’s “Learning Archery,” with its “Cormorant hunger stabs a silver flash / in silted waters,” and Daniel J. Langton’s “Notice it’s Getting Dark Earlier,” which starts, “Remember when we were immortal.” Two poems about mortality, the first comparing the flight of birds to the flight of arrows. “Your arrow flies to its target like a lover.” Then, “Neither you nor sated bird can say why.” And the latter, also mentioning lovers, more a narrative with a lover about the ephemeral nature of life. “What will never stop will stop.” Both are in sonnet format, though neither actually use formal rhymes. The two poems are on opposing pages, making it enjoyable to compare and contrast them.

“Ribbet,” by Thomas Donovan Murphy, which is in a formal rhyme scheme, contemplates the similarities and differences between the narrator and a frog. “How strange we two from water rose.” Nor does the narrator consider himself the better of the two. “today / a frog back from my mirror peered…Perhaps we’re not the pinnacle.” A delightful, lighthearted romp.

I liked also “Untamed Places,” by Dennis Ross. “Cities, small towns…do not ring the small silver bell inside me.” The narrator yearns for wilder lands. “mesas holding up an arid sky…” and “a glacier…spirits luring the unwary into crevasses.” He argues, “It cannot be all pavements and iPods.” And I do agree. A satisfying poem.

Finally, let me mention “closet,” by Debbie McIntyre. “last of my ‘vintage clothing’ on the chopping block / vicious tears on dusty devotions…” A poem that starts from clothing and goes on to contemplate various changes in life. The poem lurches as life does. “it’s a new day or some shit / a new sheriff…” I guess I just really like the quirky images in this poem. “…your goofy hat…”

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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See, I just had to use that title. Too much fun. ;-> Iconoclast #111 hits its stride quickly with the poem “legacy,” by normal. Yes, that seems to be the pen name. He/she’s probably had a huge career, maybe I’ve just always been going out the door just as normal was coming in. ;-> Anyway, the poem starts, “here & there i’d see his poetry / he’d probably seen mine in the same places…i liked his work…” Very familiar aura for me, as I also notice so many writers publishing in the same mags that I do. Always a good sign to see that universal moment in a poem. “once i thought i’d write him & / tell him so / i didn’t…” The very stripped down nature of this poem gives it power, for me. “5 yrs ago i heard he’d died…” One cool thing about this poem is how it doesn’t end with this moment, a natural spot for such a poem to end. That normal goes on and finds a chunk more universality to end with is a bit of a surprise, and that, too, is a sign of a good poem. I liked it.

Let me quickly touch on “Picnic at Turkey Creek,” by Martin Kirby, which starts as a reminiscence, “On the gravel bar / Where long-gone alligators used to laze, / We knew the hardboiled elegance / of quail eggs…” flips into a quick little love poem, and ends with a fun little flirt. But the poem is maybe most memorable for me in the phrase about a minnow, “…Laughing when one tore upstream, / A calciferous trophy in his mouth…” That just really appeals to me.

Christine A. Gruber gives us “Fandom,” a mournful poem. “He lost seven years of his life / to a hobby, an obsession…most of his time spent / in solitude…” Such a sad depiction of a life. “…one day / he kicked his addiction…only to find / it was much too late…” We are left to wonder why it was too late, what prevented the person in the poem from coming back from that down place, what if, what if… But no answer is given.

Jean Esteve delivers a gut-punch of a poem, “NOTEBOOK: Sunday,” which has a beautifully high-toned beginning: “All on a summer Sunday…” but declines in tone rapidly: “hungover…he knelt by…Mary / begging forgiveness, did Papa…” and then a short quick ending as effective as any poem I’ve read in years.  Ms. Esteve has a full-length book out, and has published in some very nice places, and it is easy to see why she’s had such success. Brava, I say.

Finally, let me discuss “Minimum Comfort,” by Donald Lev, a comfortable shoe of a poem. “Woods. I’ve never quite felt safe in them. / I’m from…Forest Hills, / which boasted neither forest nor hills…” That sort of sweet, sort of fun tone continues. “Enid and I / were looking at a house once…It had eerie stone stairs / and cellars…” “…the real woods are scary, full of / sharp snouted animals…” Just a declaration of love for houses and city and safety away from the wild. It made me smile.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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