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Posts Tagged ‘P M F Johnson poetry blog’


This issue of Convergence, the final issue, sadly, opens with “Memory Wisp,” by Michaela Erwin. “The music box sat on / the window ledge in / Grandma’s room.” The poem draws a line from the music box, and the narrator’s love of it as a child, to her love of her grandmother. “I would hum / the melody for Grandma while / she stood tall and brunette / with wisps of gray.” With the turn, it’s decades later, the music box is covered in dust, and we sense the narrator herself feels as worn and creaky as that old toy. A nicely done poem.

“Patina,” by Roger G. Singer, has some splendid lines in it. “It was called, / ‘The Hotel’… The lobby exhibited signs of / artistic death.” We can immediately see that lobby, the worn furniture, the dusty drapes. “Strips of wallpaper peeling / Like a melting glacier.” A reminder of how incisive and insightful images can power a poem to grand heights.

Kara Synhorst has a trio of affecting poems about life in Colorado in 1921. “Arkansas To Colorado 1921” starts out: “The Kansas City Star ran the ad — / A farmer looking for a wife. / She wrote him two letters / Before she hopped on the train.” Plain-spoken poems detailing a simple life, catching our attention with sympathy for the trying circumstances, and how the characters soldiered on. I liked these poems, especially the sudden way they end, with last, small details that serve to sum up the entire experience.

“The Procession,” by Holly Day, is an amazing poem. “When we were little, my best friend and I used to hold funerals for roadkill.” They are children, with children’s somewhat callous view of the world. “really / we just thought it looked like fun.” But then the messy world intrudes. “Once, a raven we tossed into the hole / moved its beak and croaked at us, not yet dead.” The delicacy of the real concern this stirs, mixed up with the unconcern of children for a wild animal who they are supposed to be honoring, is delicious. The twist of what happens to the raven, and how the children react, raises this poem above the usual. And then a marvelous last stanza, with a great, spooky ending.

Finally, I enjoyed “A Hole In The Hum,” by Evan Myquest. “If there’s ever / Five minutes of silence / in the conversation / That’s me joining in.” As I have said, I love humor in a poem, the irreverent take on life. This meditation on silence is like that. “A vow of silence is / wasted if your sandaled footfalls / slap on the monastery floor.”

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

P M F Johnson’s book of poems, Against The Night, a wry look at the way love builds through time, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Hummingbird 28.2

Missouri Review – Fall, 2018

Iconoclast – #117

 

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Mary Ellen Talley starts us out in this issue with two poems, “Red #1” and “Red #2”. They work together for me, each very short, but displaying the same structure and so creating resonance. The first opens with “The bruise at its beginning…” the next with “By now the core / of the apple…” Both beginnings contrast against the second parts of their poems, and since they come right after the other, the reader can go back and forth, taking them almost as one work, almost like a cross-stitch. It’s an interesting exercise to mush two separate poems together that way.

Benjamin L. Perez gives us a few “Fragments From / The Love Songs of Hades.” Again, these are in a series, and so bounce off each other. “Eos,” is the first fragment: “Play yourself, like a lyre.” The fragments use subtle rhymes. “Elegos” is two couplets, “Heavier poise, silent-echo; / Heavier peace, blinding shadow.” being the first one. With so few words, we can concentrate on the ones we have, meditate on them, roll them around on the tongue.

In fact, with many of these poems, what is left out is more than half the effect. That sure seems true with Beatrix Gates’ poem: “Dear Half, // I feel the unwound / cave heart / that does not speak.” What of the other half, we wonder. What might the cave say if it did speak?

But other poems, like Jane Stuart’s “Slippery leaf / caught in the corner..” are a complete meditation unto themselves; all is there for us. It is the silence after the poem that reveals the resonance.

Finally, one of my absolute favorites of this issue is Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff’s “my first visit / to father’s grave…” which has a semi-amusing, semi-shocking, and maybe even semi-poignant twist. Certainly there’s much to think about here, in this bite-sized little poem.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

Missouri Review – Fall, 2018

Iconoclast – #117

Rattle 62 – Winter 2018

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The first poet here is John James, who starts us off with a poem called “Le Moribond.” “In the catacombs I am impatient.” The very creepiness of such an image, standing in a catacombs among the dead, is enough to pull me along. “I study the bones before me, / observe fine cracks in the skulls.” The hint of violence? Of neglect? Such a weighty meditation on death. “Halt. Here is death’s empire.” I can’t say I liked a poem like that, but it did move me, and make me think. A fine poem.

David Bergman gives us, “The Man Who Heard Voices As A Child.” This scene is maybe more familiar to us, a child sneaking out from his bedroom to hear what the adults are saying in their party downstairs. “After his mother’s kiss came the click / of the door fitting snugly into place.” But he does sneak out and listen, though he can’t often hear words. “…what he loved was the rise and fall // of speech, the waves of language washing up / on the shore of his ears.” It’s interesting to think why we do the things we do. And how we are attracted to certain aspects of our lives, whether they have simple meanings or not. “the sound of their conversation; it was the music that music aspired to.” A sweet moment indeed.

And the third poet this issue is Gail Griffin, who gives us a series of poems about Queen Elizabeth I. Revealing tidbits I didn’t know about her life. “After Anne’s execution, Elizabeth was bastardized, removed from the line of succession.” The first work is a prose poem, almost more journalism. But with the subsequent poems, we see how this serves as a fitting introduction, and the rhythm of the poems takes over. Here she meets her remote, dangerous father. “Kat Ashley told me he must love me / for my hair that is like his.” We see instantly the trepidation this young girl must have felt, the danger of her situation. Will her father love her? Poignant and powerful, emphasized by that enjambment after ‘he must love me’. Then: “Look at me, girl, he said, and I / raised my eyes… he said. But damn me / if she does not have the black eyes / of the whore her mother.'” Wow. What a moment. Great poems.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

Iconoclast – #117

Rattle 62 – Winter 2018

Blue Collar Review – Summer 2018

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My attention was caught by “This Is All,” by Lance Lee, in this issue of Iconoclast. “My heart is my body’s poem / my mind a simile of light / at night.” Maybe just the load of metaphors was enough to interest me. “the hollow drum / of my want,” followed by “invaded by / a child’s tears,” followed by… The poem kind of summarizes itself: “At times I fell all I am is / a metaphor.” I’ve felt that way myself.

I liked “Untitled” by Pamela Thomas. “I hear them / Through the window… We laugh and joke / It is one sided.” An undercurrent of uncertainty, even fear, underlies this poem. “There isn’t much that / keeps me from / Devolving into / The crazed street person.” A sad beauty, here.

Rhoda Staley gives us, “Old Women.” “Where I live / the women are old…” It’s sort of a confrontation between an old style of Catholicism and the challenges of a younger women. Intriguing.

“The Titterings,” by John Kneisly is arguably a fantasy. “”Coming down stairs at night / you hear them whispering — / little nameless things.” There are a number of fun twists of language and thought here. “You couldn’t call them… creatures normally at home in twenty two dimensions / just now on pilgrimage through ours.” I very much enjoyed this poem.

roibeard ui-neill contributed “the 905 E. Elm tenement blues.” Another poem that refuses to stay tamed. “It’s been 9 years & counting / (down to what?) / since my brilliant career move.” Evidently the narrator has taken a position as super of a building. “These apartments are sliding into dilapidation / faster than I can swing a hammer.” It’s not the nicest building in town, either. “What you have here / is the landlord milking a cash cow.” I like the list of tasks, the sketches of the tenants, “Here’s my shoulder, & welcome,” the liveliness of the life depicted. “How quickly they re-cork their wine…” And a very apropos ending.

Finally, Jean Esteve writes a letter to the editor in the form of a poem. “Post War-of-the-Sexes Regrets / or A Counter to Iconoclast, Issue #116.” “I miss men. / Are we ever going to see them around again?” The narrator evidently lives in a world where men have been disposed of, and she is ruminating over the things men brought to her world that she misses now. Very fun, and a bit pointed, about the place of men in the world. “…if I looked indifferent, he could cover with a joke… possibly clean.” A delightful poem.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

Rattle 62 – Winter 2018

Blue Collar Review – Summer 2018

Apple Valley Review – Fall 2018

 

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I think I am starting to figure out Rattle‘s approach. They like plainspoken poetry, easy to understand. They don’t buy things for the flashy language alone, generally each poem has to have a point, though fine language is key as well, of course. This approach makes for some very good poetry reading, of course.

The first poem, “Canis Interruptus,” is by Jose A. Alcantara. “We put him outside; / he claws the paint off the door.” A poem about trying to civilize a puppy. Easy to relate to, if one has ever had a young dog. It’s a fun poem: “he’s on the bed… shoving his nose / in the most noseworthy places.” A fine poem, indeed.

Denise Bell gives us a powerful poem, “I Am The Shit AKA Used To Be / A Bop.” “my man slow down / drinking fast gets you high.” A poem about a man who has lived life on his own terms. “i was never on my knees begging / counting chump change…” But there is a cost to the way he has lived, and the reader has to wonder if he is even aware. “my son is… ungrateful… he had the guts to tell me i was never around… i put him through college…” A magnificent rendering of character, by a proven master of language and observation.

David Berman gives us a slice of life with his poem, “The Cat’s Fancy.” “…he knows — the sink is where I rinse / off dishes… Yet I can’t convince / him… to take postprandial rests away from there.” Ah, life with a cat, who sees what one is doing and wants to redirect the energy. Often to the cat. More a sweet poem than a humorous one, with the cat giving its human insight into life.

Elizabeth J. Coleman turns an unpleasant encounter on its head, in “The Errand.” “…a guy in an old car turned left into / my path.” They exchange shouts, he calls her an epithet, then we get the reversal. “I was glad he spoke, found a way to say hello.” Irony? We are not sure. The narrator then discusses how her child is learning to communicate. A subtle put-down, but also a way to enlarge our thinking about such encounters. It gives the poem an unusual depth, and us a reason to reflect. And let me just mention in passing this is a good example of how putting a reversal in the storyline of a poem can make it more powerful. Fiction techniques can be helpful in poetry as well.

I’m going to mention Susan J. Erickson’s “Antique Road Show,” a longer poem discussing the narrator’s fascination with the TV show. “He hands the appraiser two vases, explains in a voice like chipped crockery that his wife bought (them).” Erickson does a wonderful job of letting the poem unfold at its own pace, bringing us into the stories the participants on the show tell of the pieces they have, the knowledge she has gained from watching (and thereby the love she has for it all). “By now I know someone / will show up with a stone sculpture purchased as a relic / from the Yucatan…” Once she has fully set the hook, she reels us in by turning the tale to her own self and the humble things she owns, that her father collected. And then gives us a sudden twist revelation, and ends the poem. Purely professional work, this poem, open and revealing, and tender and sorrowful. Delivering the emotion a fine work of art can deliver.

Deborah P. Kolodji, a wonderful haiku writer, gives us four haiku. “sandblasted / by your words…” one starts. Powerful images.

Finally, Charlotte Matthews gives us “Kmart’s Closing.” “and everything’s on sale. / Even the bathmats look beleaguered.” Wow. The power of the exact right phrase. Having just seen a Macy’s close in our neighborhood, that word beleaguered is perfect. It’s true, raises that lost emotion, and keeps us reading for more. The tone is exquisite here. “Me and the plum tree are done for.” Folksy, as a discussion of Kmart should be. And then with a beautiful turn at the end, and an expansion to a larger view. Worth the candle.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

Blue Collar Review – Summer 2018

Apple Valley Review – Fall 2018

Rattle 61 – Fall, 2018

 

 

 

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I like “The Cog in the Machine,” by Burt Raabe, the poem that opens this issue of The Blue Collar Review, among other reasons because it starts in such a blunt, unapologetic way. “I hardface worn Cogs. / It’s a living.” What does ‘hardface’ mean? It could almost be a science fiction poem, but there is no air of the exotic. “A forklift delivers them / in a tub…” We get no background; we are left with the raw facts, some of which we don’t understand, and a sense of the toughness of the life, by how much is left out. Nicely done.

Regina M. Elliott’s “Their Funeral Is Their Retirement Party,” starts with a rhyme scheme: “American workers’ refrain, / sinew and bone some days bound to pain…” But just as the workers in the poem are shown growing older, so that their physical aches start sooner in the day, “his hands and legs start to ache / in the mornings…” so the poem itself seems to get tired, and the rhyme becomes too much to sustain, changing to a near-rhyme in the second verse, then vanishing altogether by the third. A nice trick.

J.C. Alfier has a poem empowered by sound, “Mojave Music.” “…the Union Pacific hammers out of its railyard, / gaining speed toward Barstow.” We feel the heat the narrator endures. “I wake each hour to a sleepless / cadence.” There is a profound alienation here, the the narrator doesn’t know exactly why. “Haven’t picked up the wrong woman at a bar.” It’s very lyrical. “One a.m. / Sounds ripen.” I like that. An eerie poem.

Lanette Sweeney talks about the gulf between classes, in “Code Cracking.” “They’ve got all the / foreign names / you need to know — / artists, opera singers…” The narrator must learn the alien code of a different class: “names you must know / like passwords / to gain entry…” It’s a beautifully rendered description of the dilemma of those trying to rise up. “Like any ex-pat, you don’t fit / in either country…”

Finally, Andrena Zawinski confronts the gun violence in our country, with “Irregular Pulse Beat Sonnet.” “The relentless drone of the daily news, / sends the pulse racing…” It’s a hard-eyed view of our culture. “In days of the dead, the gunman cackled / loading, reloading, riveting bodies…” A powerful, sad indictment of our country’s choices.

Peace in Poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

Apple Valley Review – Fall 2018

Convergence – Summer 2018

Blue Collar Review – Winter 2017-18

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Bibhu Padhi has three poems in the current issue of The Apple Valley Review. First is “Evening, Bhubaneswar.” It starts, “Floating above the rice fields, / the jackfruit trees, // evening comes / and gets into our dark houses // where ghosts stay, / poems are made.” There is something ethereal, magical, about this poem, a sort of floating-above-the-ground feel. The narrator anticipates changes, anticipates revelations, without knowing exactly what is to happen. “From a distant village
comes a song that // speaks about lost things. / A wind from the north arrives…” The power of the poem comes, I think, from the grounding in immediate images, as you can see. Exotic and intriguing. The second poem is almost an extension of the first. “Ghosts” starts out: “They enter, milk-white, / the dark house, full of poems // written by thin, wiry hands. / The nights come back // again and again, teasing / my sense of time.” Very powerful work.

Ananda-mayi dasi gives us “Onset” — “We’re in summer: our beds pocked / with dead songbirds: grey understatements.” As you can see, the images surprise us, going in unexpected directions. The poem then takes up the description of a girl hanging from a noose. The narrator herself? Then a reference to her brother, digging in the garden. It’s a short work, but one that makes us think.

I like the metaphor in the first line of “Autumn Has Come,” by Aura Christi: “A night fallen on its muzzle, like a cringing animal.” It  shocks us into paying attention, and the following lines are equally complex and intriguing: ” I no longer know when I lived / and if ever I’ll live again, God, /
what dream, what life, what story I’ll awaken in…” A poem tackling the big questions, ambitious, not afraid to jostle and creak around the edges. Even the turn is this way, unadorned, concentrated, wanting to get on with it: “It’s important to keep waiting.” A strong work.

Finally, Ed Bok Lee gives us “Reading in Bed Is Like Heaven,” which may be the poetry title I am most in agreement with, ever. Despite being short, this poem is elusive, perhaps hinting that what we read enters our dreams, changes us. “And now I see it’s not the meanings I loved most / demolishing each labyrinth flooded with belief, // but the quandaries…” So much to contemplate, and to enjoy, here.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

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

Related blog posts:

Convergence – Summer 2018

The Sun – Sept, 2018

Rattle 61 – Fall, 2018

P.S. Here’s the link to the magazine, though you’ll have to hunt down volume 13, # 2 once the current issue gets archived: https://www.applevalleyreview.com/

 

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