Posts Tagged ‘Joan Colby’

This is a double issue of Cape Rock, which means a lot of poetry indeed.  J.F. Connolly begins the issue with “Alzheimer’s,” a list poem of metaphors about the disease: “the bump in the night, / the false start of memory’s dream.” A moving, sad poem.

John Grey gives us “The Lone Shopper.” “It is a sure ploy / in separating a lonely man / out from the others.” The tone and swing of this poem are fun, and sting a little (because of the accuracy of observation?). “He bypasses the fresh meats / and vegetables, / for stuff in cans.” He compares the man against other shoppers, but admits, “I’m only clued in on the man…” As with many deeper poems, he turns the poem at the end… or seems to, then instantly turns it again, a clever device. Worth a smile.

Bruce McRae also gives us an upbeat poem, “Toying With A Dime,” with a catchy beginning. “I’m at the corners of Awe St. and Dread… sitting in a bar, counting God’s change.” Then come a series of original lines, flashing past the screen almost to fast to catch. “Space expands, like a mind… Time stutters and stalls.” And at the end, the narrator picks up the coin he’s been playing with and goes. A captivating poem.

I like Charlene Langfur’s “My Leaping Dog.” A narrative poem about the narrator walking her dog, a poem of connection. “This is how I feel about happiness…The incipience of morning,” it starts, and the dog is right there. “lower to the ground than I am…with the agility of a superhero.” A pleasing, deft tone, that leads to some surprising insights. “The surprise of how / we can be something else in the midst of who / we know we are.” That line bears meditating upon, for me. It’s nice to see such reflection in a poem, an aim of something higher than just clever language.

There are many good story poems in this issue, well worth discovering. But a lyrical poem I very much liked was by Kelli Simpson. “Dandelions.” “If the dandelions don’t lie, it’s going to be a dry summer.” Just the whole sense of a conversation with flowers makes me want to read on, and the poem proves worth the attention. “We all drink the red dirt…” A very nice poem.

Too many good poems to mention them all, but I liked “Winter Map,” by Madison Cyr, “Mirabella Pool,” by Rage Hezekiah, “Today I Decide Not To Read About The Vanishing Snow Leopards,” by Ron McFarland, “Sur La Plage,” a clever sonnet by Stephen Thomas Roberts, and “Torbat,” by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad (“I dropped the h, / the long sigh in my first name”).

A couple of strong political poems show up, “A Dangerous Business,” by Pesach Rotem, concerning a poet in Saudi Arabia condemned to death for writing poetry: “remember that it’s your head he’s talking about / And that he means it literally.” And “He Plans His Funeral,” by Joan Colby. “The gang slogans that will be inscribed…the hand signals displayed…with an emotion that is partly / Theatrical.” Powerful.

The last poem I will mention is by David Brendan Hopes. “In The August Garden.” It starts, “You arise — you don’t know why — past midnight…the August garden…finalizes and takes stock.” I love the sentience of the garden in this poem, the partnership between garden and gardener. “I have put on white and violet / for the sake of love.” Then come references to the ancient troubadours, Villon and all, “confusing God with their lady loves in that charming way.” There’s just a lot going on in this poem, and very entertaining.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of love poems, Against The Night, is available on Amazon,  as well as at other fine e-retailers.

Related Blogs:

The New Yorker – Oct 30, 17

The Apple Valley Review – Fall 2017

Rattle Magazine – Fall 17




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I really like the poem, “Full Belly Farm,” by Rage Hezekiah, in the Spring issue of Plainsongs. “Bouncing / over farm terrain towards the field, / all of us wield freshly sharpened knives.” A poem about a woman doing what she must to fit in with male coworkers, picking cabbages. It isn’t easy. “The men… hunch / behind each other, faking penetration…” There is suspense in this poem, and sadness, but ultimately triumph as well, the narrator proving herself in a tough world. It stirred my heart.

I also enjoyed William Jolliff’s “To Ask For Less.” “By grace in time we learn to ask for less.” There is a tremendous wisdom for me in just that first line. He goes on to list what might be asked for: “”A little ham, maybe, greasy and sweet.” It is a poem of humility, touching. And powerful when it turns more personal. “my son running his scales, / the repetition of arpeggios.” A poem of gratitude, finally.

“Joyriding To Nightfall,” by Joan Colby, is a subtle, complex poem. “A house on a hill awaits the faithful, / that’s us, redhanded and sorrowful…” The poem piles on a slew of images, on its way. “The storm skirting the horizon to sweep / the harvest into baskets of wind.” is my favorite, I think. It comes to no easy conclusion as it contemplates many images of faith, from many cultures. Worth reading.

“To the Horizon,” by Mark Christhilf, caught my attention. “When I get to where you are / I will have learned / to call myself from myself…” A poem that almost seems like a young idealist, sure of himself, and how he will grow in wisdom. And yet, and yet there is that faint hint that the author knows more than the narrator; there is a whiff of irony and sadness underneath. Beautifully done.

Finally, let me mention “Carried on the Wind,” by Leo Dangel. “In the time before the electric lines…a windmill with an electric propeller blade / stood close beside the house…” A poem of nostalgia, yes, but more of comparing the power of memory against the fainter truth of mere documentation. The narrator remembers hearing on the radio the boxing match “between Joe Louis and Jersey Joe Walcott.” It is the world surrounding the memory that gives it heft, the narrator’s church, his sister Rose, the way the announcer fades in and out, a heft beyond what the dry video on YouTube can deliver. A very good poem.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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Had some big changes in my life recently, so I haven’t blogged in a while, but here we go now.

In the Fall 2015 Blue Collar Review, I was much struck by Carole Mertz’ pantoum, “Hard Times.” She uses the form to powerful effect. “He likes to hold his temper in the face of adversity / even though his hours are reduced.” The repetition of lines reminds us of the grinding nature of work, and of bosses who make things harder: “Even though his hours are reduced / the manager hovers over him.” Well done.

“Mine,” by Ed Werstein, reminds me a bit of George Harrison’s “Taxman,” with its grim humor: “Mine is mine, / and those things you thought were yours? / They’re mine.” But this is Blue Collar Review, so the poem will ultimately have to do with work. “The mines are mine. / All the mines that miners mined…”Great, ironic word play, and a strong ending.

I very much enjoyed William Joliff’s explanatory poem, “Briarhopper Ted-Talk: What To Do With Spam.” “The trick is getting it thin enough…Done right, fried Spam won’t be soft / in the middle. There is no middle.” The earnest tone adds to the fun. “I smashed a lot of Spam to learn it.” And a perfectly Blue Collar ending to top it off.

The poet roibeard gives us an engaging poem. I like the fun of “Mission Creep 3.” “Thursdays, / the fear of failing myself / must play pattycake with someone else.” There are a lot of slick little turns of phrase: “barleycorn buffoonery is at my beck & call.” (Yes, this line scans, which adds something delicate to its lilt). And, “There’s also the matter of my cradle-Catholic wife…our lady of the chickens.” The poem is an enjoyable read.

Finally, I’ll mention “On HGTV,” by Joan Colby. It starts, “They are obsessed with stainless steel and granite.” Surely we can all identify with the narrator, watching the unreal people on TV. “Which makes me determined…to abjure the island around which / Everyone congregates.” I like that word, abjure. There is a fine sensibility for language here. “I want to smite that arrogance / of want.” A line worth going back to and contemplating. All in all, a very worthy poem.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, is a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage. It’s available on Amazon, at https://www.amazon.com/Against-Night-Poems-PMF-Johnson-ebook/dp/B01LXQX9Y5/ as well as other fine e-retailers.

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The latest issue of Nimrod has a theme of Circulation, and it starts with a poem by Linda Neal Reising called “Navigation.” “…there are many poems / in circulation today, // and I picture them / in their little paper boats…” She muddles together the images of paper boats and blood circulating in the body. “sailing through sixty thousand miles / of blood vessels.” It’s an interesting statistic. One I will not look up. I care more about the verisimilitude of facts in a poem, the ‘truthiness’ of them, rather than the exact accuracy. Maybe that’s just me. ;-> Anyway, the boats become types of poems, and the nautical theme is brought back to close out the poem, a tight, well-crafted work.

A couple poems later, the editor brings us back to the blood theme with Florence Weinberger’s “The Prescription.” “he says / when your blood / turns sluggish / and sleepy / eat something salty.” Again the verisimilitude, which is nice for lending the poem authority, and a reason to read on. ‘Does that really work?’ I ask myself. Weinberger continues: “I’d forgotten salt. / No Chinese food.” We descend farther and farther into salt references, then return to the blood reference at the very end. There are some nice lines here, that make the poem worth reading. “It bites me like a loving old / toothless dog.” And I like to see how the editor is arranging poems, leading us from theme to theme via similar images.

August Donovan gives us “The Tiger of Newton, Kansas,” wherein the poor narrator has an encounter with said tiger, and gets off a few good lines before he is devoured (or not. I won’t tell you the ending). “if something happens once, it will again. // Sneaking out at lunch to get a Scotch. / Sex with my ex who’s like the news: all bad.” Roll those lines around on your tongue a bit. They have flavor.

Then again, Marge Saiser gives us “Beauty With Cat.” A love poem, or love lost. “He gave this gold cap…promised pearls which never came, / painted them falsely here around my neck…He could have placed / roses under my hand… But here instead is Vladimer, his cat. / You know how cats are: …never giving the whole of the heart.” The poems ends with the narrator’s emotions, which I very much liked as a technique, and, happily, a little more cat.

Tina Schumann’s “Overture (anticipation) hits close to home for me. “When my father dies, it will happen / as it always happens; a midnight drive across the desert, tumbleweeds / over headlights…” Such a powerful beginning. And the rest of the poem follows, logically. “it will have nothing / and everything to do with me.” Such a sad, true poem.

Joan Colby has a disturbing take on “The Bones.” “Old bones. My mother shrinking / into half a parenthesis…Or Ron, his spine / rebuilt with cadaver bone, / a half-corpse until he shot himself.” Images that stick with us long after the poem is over.

But maybe my favorite poem in the issue is by Stephen Gibson, “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory.” And no, not just because it’s such a fun title. “You will go down through memories that…will disguise themselves to protect you” An elaborate, complex sonnet. “you’ll be looking for that one tool….(it will be missing). It becomes a poem about loss, rooted in concrete imagery, beautifully rhymed, with a breathtaking ending, the last word unexpected and obvious once it’s given.” Bravo.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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There are plenteous narrative poems in this Atlanta Review, w a folk-tale sensibility. Well-done, this is just about my favorite type ‘a poem. (And evidently of Dan Veach, the editor).

Mark Belair gives us a fun one with “one thanksgiving.” “…in the mid-1950s / my grandfather won a turkey raffle” and we’re off on a yarn, where the daughters grin as grandma and grandpa have their relationship revealed for all to see. Fun and touching and human, one after the other.

“Georgia Gothic” is another, written by Leon Stokesbury, with the classic opening: “Not that long ago, in a country / not that far away, there lived / a crematorium owner…” And oh gosh, the eel of dread is wriggling in our stomach already. Not so much laughing in horror, as digging into the frailty of the human mind and behavior. “he would wander down / to the brambled woods…” A poem very much worth looking up.

The other thing that struck me about this issue is how many sonnets there are. “Snakes in Paradise” by Richard Cecil starts out, “It’s hard to loaf when it hits five below…” but this soon turns out to be a lyric poem commenting on Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. How rare it is to see any published poem taking a political stance in American poetry. Blue Collar Review does them, of course, but I can’t remember the last poem in another high-tone mainstream mag w a political slant one way or the other. Well, cheer or hiss, here it is. Since I write my share of such poems, I’m very glad to see it. And it’s a well-rendered sonnet to boot, w a strong voice.

I loved the complexity arising from the repetition in James B. Nicola’s “A boy should not.” It starts, “A boy should not have to teach himself to shave,” and goes all ominous from there.

Nick Norwood’s “Shetland” brought out the cranky and therefore dangerous personality of the Shetland pony the nine-year-old narrator decides to pet. “He was a beast, all right, but so was I.”

“Running With The Bullshitters,” by James Valvis made me laugh. Then I read it to my wife, and we laughed again.

I’m running out of time and energy, but let me mention another sonnet among the several other splendid efforts, “After All,” by Daniel Langston, which is funny and clever, and even though we’re half-watching for it, hard to spot as a sonnet, since the rhymes are so smooth and the language so natural. Also, we’re distracted: “As you know, watching a bra being dropped / is religious in its intensity…”

Joan Colby has four poems very much worth reading here as well.

And I liked Dolores Stewart’s sonnet “Reading Shakespeare At The Senior Center.”

But the one poem I think I read the most in the issue was the one that won the Grand Prize in the contest, “Musical soup” by Joyce Meyers. “Spring just a week away, but this raw / rainy day cries out for a pot / of African peanut chicken soup.” Oh boy, I want a cup myself, just reading those words. It’s an elegy to the narrator’s mother, and a reflection about the future and what of worth she has accomplished, and “What of me will my children / remember?” A very sweet, thoughtful poem.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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I liked “Paws For Peter” by Peter Leverich in this issue. But of course, with a title like that, how could I not? ;-> “down from his nursery window / a neighbor’s cat / gives us pause…” A fun, quick thing.

“Before” by Lisa Meserole has some sharp images as well. “when the …myrtle’s in…bloom / and the marigold’s still getting butterfly love.”

Charlotte DiGregorio gives us “Ode To Shade.” “Sooth me, after months / of wasting sun.” I always like double meanings, as with the word wasting there. Lots of good stuff in this work. “maple trees shedding / weightless crimson and gold.”

Carol A. Amato’s poem “Progeny” has such an excellent opening: “Beyond August / dragonflies still stop / to capture precious spots of sun.” That could almost be a poem in itself. I think this may be my favorite poem in the issue, in fact: “monarchs have emerged / from their jeweled inscrutable wombs…” A lot of thoughtful lines here. “the rip-tide wind…”

“October 4” by Joan Colby is worth reading. “The gilt beans have been harvested / Leaving a scraped and bare audacity…” Interesting to choose audacity over austerity there.

“Pumpkins on the River” by Phyllis Beck Katz has such an unusual idea: pumpkins in a flood floating off down the river. “You could see lines of liberated / pumpkins stretching for miles.” Great image.

Ed Galing’s “The Park” touched me. “It looked so out of place / a small park right in the center / of a busy street.” The very spareness and plain language of this poem lend it power.

Many other excellent poems fill this issue as well, too many all to mention.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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In the latest Avocet, Peter C. Leverich, the former editor, gives us a light poem, about a ride in a boat, called “Lift.” “…one sharp tug on the leeward sheet / and the sail breaks loose, / rustling and slappy.” The poems put me back on a sailboat, where I have not been in more than a while. Really, it’s the ending that makes this poem work for me, uplifting, but not sappily so.

Joan Colby’s “Evensong” is an adept poem: “Dark stem floating / Like a long bird into an ambush of cloud. / It is twilight.” Too short for a sonnet but with that sort of movement and sweep, and a strong ending.

David S. Pointer gives us a fun little haiku, starting with “old go cart track” — I like the pairing of this line with the second image very much, and breaking away from the 5-7-5 format seems wise for this poem.

Nick Adams goes deeper with his poem “Birds And Looks” than a simple describing of a natural scene; the narrator is hauled along on a bird watch without necessarily wanting to be there: “She invites me…to watch birds. / I think we should leave them alone.” That amused tone carries well throughout the poem. “We’re after the ones who shun us and / find us troublesome…No matter, it makes her happy.” Worth re-reading.

John L. Wright gives us “The Western Red Cedar,” about the narrator’s relationship to a tree. “I’ve done the talking, / but you…nearly symmetrical, have been the teacher.” Again, there is more going on here, as the narrator evidently has the tree cut down at the end; we are not sure why. And it points out how limited such a relationship really is: “I feel a twinge of emptiness, of angst really…” Not everything in poetry is a huge deal, some losses are small, though real.

Lastly, Joanne Stokkink gives us “July Cinquain,” an almost imagist poem that works very well for me: “with sticks / longer than the / crow locked in its beak / the crow stops…” Again it is the ending that makes this poem, but of course to read it you should send off for the magazine. ;->

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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