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Posts Tagged ‘Lyn Lifshin’


This season’s Plainsongs boasts poems by several seasoned poets. Let me start with Ruth Berman’s “Flawed X-Ray” — “The diamond ring is dark / Upon the bones…” a properly spooky start to this quick little poem, and the shiver continues throughout “…spread forever on the film…” to a powerful ending.

Just beneath this on the page is Lyn Lifshin’s “Emily Dickinson,” which does not pay direct homage through rhyme schemes and short little verses. Instead it portrays her almost in movie terms: “moves past the mirror / that’s mostly black… A dark splotch gulps even the / amber in her eyes…” Strong images that build to a satisfying conclusion.

Another strong poet in this magazine is Ed Galing, who gives us “First Born,” a touching description of the narrator at his son’s birth, fears and all: “i had the feeling that / it was all wrong / i wasn’t meant to be a father…” with the deft contrast to everyone else in the room being evidently thrilled “all smiling / shaking hands…oogling the little / brat” that last word like a slap. Then we go on to a second poem, “My Son At Sixty” for a second look at the relationship between these two people: “his hair is thinning / on the sides…I look at him / curiously / thinking…he /resembles my own / father…” Note the subtle use of enjambment, line after line ending at a precipice, we don’t know where the poet is going with his next word, the work winding down the page like the reflections of the poet himself. A great loss when this poet passed. We’ll miss him.

“Cocoa,” by Anne Knowles, is a very enjoyable poem, the nitty gritty of a dignified, working life. “the cocoa / yielding to his ministrations / as to a sermon.”

Finally, JW Major gives us “Jump,” which starts as a portrait of a fascinating man. “his comedy deadpan, bulgy-eyed…smiling / like a cheap-made devil.” My wife and I once bought a work of folk art in Santa Fe, a woman being whooshed off on the back of a bicycle, the devil at the wheel. This poem starts us off with that same slant humor, but then the poem goes deeper: “I turn sunshine gray, he said….Now he’s not here but is here more than before…” and slowly we realize the poem isn’t about him at all, but about her: “I’m on the condo pool deck, the widow, / character from a movie with the old lady hair-do” and the skilled turn makes this a tremendously powerful poem, with an ending that takes your breath away.”

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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