Posts Tagged ‘Missouri Review Winter 2018’

The first poem in this issue is by Catherine Pierce, a poet I was not familiar with. Her “The Horse Girls,” starts: “The horse girls were writing novels. / The horse girls were dreading flag football.” A poem about growing up, at that awkward age where boys are interesting but embarrassing. The author anthropomorphizes to make this point. “Their hair embarrassed. Their shirts ruffled / with anger.” Other girls are the beautiful ones, clique-insiders who canter around them. Reading this, I realized how often young adults growing up is a theme of poems in The Missouri Review. Enough to consider it part of their world view. Many of these poems are very slickly written, and Ms. Pierce certainly delivers as well. At the end of this particular poem, the girls become horses themselves, or at least yearn to win in life the way horses do. This sort of synthesizing of two realities is a very satisfying way to end a poem, making the two views one, if you will.

I’d also like to mention her poem “Vespers,” because of the powerful way she uses language here. “Mississippi at the end of March / is a chaos of wisteria.” (Okay, maybe part of why I wanted to talk about this is really my own yearning to see wisteria after a long winter. Well, there you go.) “birds / insistent and fierce. It’s easy / to forget we’re only pretending / their language into song.” I have to ask, Wait, don’t you mean pretending their song into… no… Oh, how I admire that line, how it makes us stop and think, twist and re-twist it into differently braided thoughts. Or, “generously dividing the lushness / into manageable segments.” What a fun poem.

Miho Nonaka gives us “Through the Willows,” which starts, “Bless the cherry that must still bloom in April / its trunk scarred with initials, hasty students’ hands.” How that ‘must still’ brings us up short, wondering why must it still bloom, then realizing after the second line that it blooms in spite of the damage humans have done to it, and with that we have the sorrow that our species can be so thoughtless, inconsiderate not only of other species, but even of other humans who might lose their own chance at beauty because of us. For we all have been careless in some way or another. Sorrow is endemic to life. And the mix in this poem of a touch of the ancient reverence expressed by attending the cherry blossom festival, alongside the modern notions of the young. “on our way home at dusk– / everyone’s secret stop the local 7-Eleven.” And even how that mundane irreverence actually forms part of the ritual, and we can dimly sense how in one way or another it always has. When a poem can bring all that up, it’s a home run for me.

Finally, Brian Swann, in “The Return of Coyote,” gives us his own take on irreverence and the wild: “Yeah, that’s me, spiky hair blowin’ in the wind, tight black / fishnet stockings…” From the point of view of Coyote, coming back to Central Park. And the reference to Bob Dylan’s song, written within a stone’s throw of the place, long ago. Then, further on, “a world made of installations like a hedge fund…” almost stream-of-consciousness, looping along crazily, dangerous language here. “until a cab flattens me, wipeout, / but I pop back up, a bit wobbly…” Mixing the news headlines of coyotes coming back into the city with Coyote of the roadrunner cartoons, and the Native trickster Coyote in a happy mash-up. Effective, fun, and worth re-reading.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

My book of poems, Against The Night, a wry look at a love that builds through a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – Mar 25 & Apr 1, 19

Rattle 63 – Spring 2019

Nimrod International Journal – Winter 2018




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