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Posts Tagged ‘Nimrod International Journal’


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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It is not all that unusual for me to prefer some of the non-winners to the winners when contest results are posted. I think that’s honestly part of the process, doesn’t mean I’m more right, or that anyone else is. It’s just what resonates for whom and why. One of the poems in the current issue of Nimrod I liked very much was “A Request For Color And Spice #3” by Simon Peter Eggertsen. “When I die, God, let me live on in color and spice.” There are just such lively lines in this poem, things that make me stop and go back. “Drag a star through my body, God, sober me up / with fire…” Lines like that deserve an audience.

Alison Luterman, who has written many fine poems, here gives us, “She for whom I am named” which starts “left Russia at fifteen to follow her betrothed….Hello, crowded, terrifying boat.” The story of her grandmother, the story of so many American immigrants. “And later in life, after HE died, / kept her pockets full of candy for the children.” It is the ending line that makes this such a powerful poem though, saying so much about how little any of us leaves behind to be remembered.

I enjoyed Arne Weingart’s “World Without Signs.” “The arrows are the first to go / detaching themselves from their places.” It’s a fun poem, as the aforesaid signs gradually deconstruct themselves. “and heading off straight whichever way / they were pointing…the names of places are next…” The ending of such a progression of a poem matters very much, of course, and this one ends well, though I like the lines a few stanzas before the end best: “it is impossible // to give or receive directions / you simply have to know where it is…”

He also gives us a powerful little poem, “Recapturing My Stutter,” which starts: “Ferocious little animal, / I let you out of your box…” which gives us an empathetic view into the difficulties of having a stutter. “you who / had given me so many vicious / bites” And some complicated truths here. “I let everyone lie about you // and pretend you didn’t exist.”

And lastly let me mention “What Words For God” by Kate Kingston. “Here are the day words / — shovel, hoe, melon, orange, mint…” God asks me, / What are the words here? I reply in Spanish: / zebra, leon, gorila, mono, jirafa.” The night words: “gunaa, mujer, woman.” (The first of those three might be Nahuatl). It’s a complicated poem, and worth savoring, letting the parts of it resonate and bounce off each other, in the various languages referenced.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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As usual, the latest Nimrod is jam-packed with notable poems. Let’s start with the first poem in the mag, “Sequel,” by Joan Roberta Ryan, which has an argument for also being the best. “Dear Husband and King…” it starts. “Lately, your mother has been…eyeing / the kids rather strangely, / and knowing her ogreish / lineage…” I suppose this is the time to say the theme for this issue was reimagining faerie tales and such. Anyway, it’s a fun poem, dire warning ending and all. I admire the line breaks in this as well.

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda has a clever folded poem (by which I mean she’s taken two poems and folded them together) called “Painting In An Enclosed Field At Saint-Paul Hospital.” A Van Gogh poem. “Like the painting of a peasant /Devout/ I long to haul wheat / we rise / in the fertile field.” Interesting things can happen with such poems, if done correctly. I like this one.

“She Gives Me The Watch Off Her Arm” is a sweet portrait by Marge Saiser of the relationship between mother and daughter at the moment the daughter is going off to college. “the closest she has ever been / is this / the dorm // her father had needed her / to dig the potatoes…” We see the daughter aware of how much this means to the mother.

“Burning House” is an insightful look by Diane Cadena Deulen into the midset of little boys, and how they are affected by a nearby house burning down. “Because the place was long abandoned, rumored / haunted…it was cause more for celebration / than alarm.” Great twist at the end as well.

The final poem I’ll mention is “Scheherazade,” by Patricia Hawley. “They were raised / as if feral by nuns, fed at the back door.” What a great beginning. This is about girls, however, not cats, and there is a stream of sadness running underneath. “Gen, / an artist, jumped from a tenement fire — her child stopped breathing / in her arms.” Very powerful.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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Nimrod’s Fall/Winter issue has some fine poetry — it’s the Awards issue, but this year it seems many more awarded poems have been selected for publication. Just a sense I have.

I much enjoyed Melanie McCabe’s “What the Neighbors Know.” A complex poem: “What the neighbors know is so small it might fit in my mailbox.” What they know about what? The poet has fun leaving that unexplained for a bit: “We have a piece of your life that we plan to torture / into something we recognize.” So it’s about not fitting in, not knowing each other.

Doug Ramspeck’s poem “Crow Sight” is about seeing: “When my uncle was going blind, hunters were uncertain shapes beyond the trees, / even with orange vests. He believed…in the uncertainty of things…” Again not a simple poem. But with an excellent ending.

C. White gives us a great poem in “Communion” — “I envy crows their looks — / sitting shiva on power lines…” crows as mediators of grief. Short and strong.

Katherine Bode-Lang’s poems are very much worth reading. From “My Father’s Fastball” — “I’ve always known my father with a scar on his knee.” About her father’s ability to pitch, and what is lost over time, and what is held onto: “The real prize at the fair was out-pitching // the younger guys.”

I loved Earl Reineman’s ode to his father: “Dirty Laundry.” Such a clear impression of a rogue: “A certain charm about my father.” He’s good-looking, evidently: “women’s eyes up and down, / then up and down again.” A fun companion for a young boy. But with some hard truths behind it all: “Mom had seen through him long ago– / kicked him out– divorced him…”

Lots more worthy work in here, by Bonnie Wailee Kwong and Sarah Crossland, among others, but Nimrod is a big magazine, and there’s never room to discuss it all.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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