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Posts Tagged ‘Main Street Rag’


I enjoyed the “shock of discovery” aspect to Gail Eisenhart’s poem, “Flapper,” in the Main St. Rag. “She said… ‘Sit down, I’ll tell you a story. / After the First World War claimed too many / …young men.'” It’s a girl listening to her grandmother describing her youth. “I flaunted / my rolled rayon stockings…exposing my knees — accidentally.” Quite a fun poem, with an arch, amusing ending.

Bill Glose gives us another of his powerful war poems, “War Trophies.” “…we sought war trophies amid the wreckage / of another country….feelings clenched in fists.” I love that description. “Nothing new, // this desire to appropriate images / of our intended demise.”
Glose compares the trophies of earlier wars with his own, but interestingly, he ends up with more mundane treasure. “familiar logos // of Coke and Pepsi transformed / by Arabic lettering.” I love his irony, showing how the world has shrunk since those days, how those who buy our products nevertheless become our adversaries. It is a strange world indeed.

I love Joan Wiese Johannes’ “Lullabye,” a form where each line in the first stanza is repeated in reverse in the second (forgive me forgetting the name of this form). A delicate poem, and subtle. “Aunt Ruby sings her witching song, / enfolds us in a purple light…my infant sister sleeps.” I love going back over the same lines, which are slightly strange in appearing from another direction, with a sense of deeper meanings.

Peter Grandbois gives us “All We Remember Is Wind,” about how we are trapped in our lives. “There’s no clean getaway,   no Icarus, / feathers in a frenzy, making it…” There are beautiful images in this poem. “As if we could keep / despair nested   in the branches…” and “we flock back / to the broken.” And a tremendous ending to this one. A very satisfying poem.

Finally, let me mention “Ford Pinto,” by Bern Mulvey. I like how The Main St. Rag chooses some poems based on their presentation of interesting characters. This is a good example. “Six months I’d saved up, fry master, / McDonald’s cap…stomach / noisy rumbles…” There’s generally nothing tricky about such a poem, the enjoyment comes from the quirks of character presented, in this case a young kid trying to buy a car to impress girls and generate a little independence. “…off to the car lot, / though no one would help me, seventeen, acned, / knees knobby.” We ache over his vulnerabilities, and how the world treats him coldly. And the narrator recognizes this, so the poem ends as a nostalgic look back. I like that kind of a poem, more than the sophisticated, ironic stuff that doesn’t dare to show any flaws.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of love poems, Against The Night, is available at https://www.amazon.com/Against-Night-Poems-PMF-Johnson-ebook/dp/B01LXQX9Y5/

 

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The poem “El Jefe,” by Olga Abella in the spring Main St. Rag kind of reached in and got to me. “Drops of sweat form on my mother’s upper lip / as he screams into her face” it starts. Just a raw presentation of a moment of injustice, beautifully rendered. “She can smell his anger blowing over her head.” And a powerfully ironic ending. Well done.

And I loved “Why She Dresses Up As a Clown At Work,” by Jin Cordaro. “Or maybe it’s because she prefers…that big orange sponge of a nose.” “So she lets them…put a ruffled collar tight / around her neck.” We feel sympathy for the character, but oh no, Cordaro has deeper, more evil plans than that. The turn in this poem is nefarious, bringing out the evil chuckle by the end.

Maybe because it hits so close to home, I also very much enjoyed “Mother At 81” by Alan Harawitz. “You sit in your chair like an old car / waiting for the crusher.” Wow, what a start. It’s a short poem, in couplets, but more effective for that, I think. Great ending, too.

Finally, I enjoyed Sara Totten’s “Comfort,” a love poem. “Just shoot me / or / wrap me in a bubble of / warmth and fleece / of / arms and legs…” It’s a sensual poem, nicely understated: “Hold me tightly in a cocoon of / vanilla…” It heats up as it goes along, and ends very sweetly indeed.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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Thru an address mixup I wasn’t receiving my Main Street Rags, and just got Winter 2014. So here goes.

I like the poem “Elmhurst,” by Joan Colby, where the narrator goes back to the town of “your” childhood. “Let the unremembered be backwashed.” and “Go back: the little store with its glass case of candies.” Much remains, though there have been changes. “Erased by a park, a prairie path for joggers…” At a certain age, looking back seems to grow into a preoccupation. “At first I am befuddled, then see /it’s your childhood you’re giving me.” With a resonant ending that moves the poem to a larger context.

Steve Cushman is also looking back in “Grandfather.” “I visited him / at the trailer park he owned…” But there is a tougher edge to this poem. “he was slumped / over the steering wheel…before I touched him / I thought of the man he used to be…” and again, there is a depth to the ending, in this case however, pointing out a narrowed corner of the narrator’s heart, a risk for the poet that I very much appreciate. It’s easy to make ourselves look righteous and shiny in a poem, much scarier to show us real and muddled.

John Gosslee adds some short, blunt poems. In “How I Pursued Her,” for instance: “a badger / after its dinner // an accountant / logging money.” Ruefully fun stuff.

Finally, I very much enjoyed the poem, “High Heels,” by Anina Robb. “She wears them to keep her man / sane.” Great enjambment. “Every day of pain / there is less of that desire.” Such a true review of what cost heels exact: “Before bed, she slaps the cramps… Blisters puncture.” And a great ending. Maybe it’s because of the animus my wife has always had to these cruel instruments. ;->

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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I haven’t investigated Main Street Rag before the current issue, so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it up and discovered it has a sensibility very close to mine own. Focused on emotions, on human interactions, very grounded and linear, I’m just warning you. ;->

It begins with Colin D. Halloran, the winner of their most recent contest. I was very affected by his “Morning Commute.” “That’s the spot he ran to. / Where he came to say hello: a wave and a salute.” That salute is the warning that we are about to meet a twist: “I sped down this road, / escorting bodies back to the hospital.” A medic, perhaps, in a war zone, thinking of the soldiers who have suffered. “Arteries so cleanly cut / as shrapnel raced…” It is good to remember what is going on in our world, I think, good to honor our soldiers with poems. We forget that poetry can do this, raise us above ourselves, bring life into focus, reveal that which really matters. I choked up at his poems.

Ann Campanella, in “Herring Gull,” gives us a different sort of moment: “A lone gull lights beside me / on the sand.” We have a place, an action, an intriguing moment. “He …stands as if to guard me…” It’s a quick poem, giving us the moment, the poet’s reaction, and then getting out.

I’m a good bet to like a poem called “Liberal Troglodyte,” and of course I do like this one by Llyn Clague. “I live in a cave. / I have hair on the backs of my hands.” There are chuckles in the poem, though it ends on a more serious note.

One of the rarest skills in poetry, and one of the most powerful, is the ability to deliver a true voice. Joan Colby gives us one of these with “A Fella Maybe.” You can hear the accent, see the subject of the poem just in reading the words: “Ralph says, / ‘A fella could maybe take this hitch,’ his hand rubs the one on our old truck, ‘and move it / up a snitch, weld it back on.'” Boy, I get shivers listening to the voice, thinking of the straightforward, deep-running people I have known so connected to their world as this fellow seems to be.

Finally, let me mention a series of poems by Fred Rosenblum towards the end of the magazine, again war poems, again engulfing us in sadness. They have a weight beyond so much poetry published, and I am glad there is a place for poems like these to reach the light. Here’s from “War Names”: “at first / you’re cranked up… to roll around in the mud /and fire on the enemy / for america / but later / when you hit the shit / you learn who you really are”

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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