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Posts Tagged ‘P M F Johnson poetry blog’


The two poems in this issue of The New Yorker couldn’t be more different. First is Safiya Sinclair’s “Gospel of the Misunderstood,” a breathless fever-dream of a poem. “I want to be the blade striking / knotted brown, to kiss the nape of any hunger…” Words twist under our eyes, morph into something else. Meaning detaches and reattaches in strange ways. There is huge desire underneath the words: “warm branch / of man pinning me here…” and, “Nameless, I haunt for god and love / in extinct places.” One must keep going back to the words, revisiting lines, to keep from vanishing into the poem. Desire mingles with religious fervor, and in the latter half of the poem the narrator’s brother and father appear, seemingly unable to fathom her. And in the end, a frustrating angel appears. Very worth reading.

The second poem is by Barry Gifford, a far more grounded offering called “American Pastime.” “When I was a little kid… Jimmy Yancey, the great blues… piano player, / worked as a groundskeeper / at Comiskey Park.” The poem states the irony of such a talent in such a mundane job, and doubles it in declaring that even the narrator, who honors Yancey by trying to learn his piano style, does not know Yancey’s parallel history and greatness as a ballplayer in the Negro Leagues. “…throwing down / his best curves… on both / the black and white keys.” That sentence becomes a keystone of the whole poem, resonating between the worlds he occupied, black and white, sport and music, showing how they integrate each into the other, forming a whole man comfortable in many worlds. (Love that ‘throwing down,’ btw). A declaration of the power of the human spirit. And a poem that we can hope gets more people to search out his music.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Hummingbird – 28.1

Rattle 60 – Summer 2018

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

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Two poems appear in this issue of The Nation, the first by Jose A. Rodriguez: “Translating an Autopsy, or To the Man Autopsied Into 99 Pages.” Kind of a clunky title, but I liked the beginning. “Please know that I read them all and could not weep…” The poem dances between two tones, that of describing a murder scene from an amused and cynical novel, and the more subtle horror of realizing that scenes like this appear every day, they are no exaggeration. “…the rudimentary outline of a / male body the size of an action-figure with wounds / marked X on your torso.” The further into the poem we go, the more the horror becomes real. “splatters on the wall dripping every synonym / of pain.” The ending comes as a shock, twists the meaning of the poem from a murder due to some drug deal gone bad, or a violent turf struggle, into something else. The epiphany catches our heart. A powerful poem.

The second poem is “Courage,” by Nate Klug. “Stillness until six, the yards and porches / giant toy sets…” This is a poem that rewards close attention. A short poem about the briefness and fragility of life. “Each sleep a baffling practice / for leaving you behind…” Well, when we think about it, yes, sleep can be seen as a practice for death. But the poet stays in the moment, with images that almost fragment the scene, giving us only brief clues to what we are seeing. So much erased, but with the essentials remaining. The poem lured me into a sort of meditation. Pretty cool.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Convergence Online Journal – Spring 2018

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

The Cape Rock – 46

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

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This issue of Convergence Online Journal contains a wonderful sestina by Carol Louis Moon, “Accepting The Temporary.” “I stared at the cat for hours,” it begins, “… with all that means. // But meaning is only temporary…” Moon goes beyond the minimal requirements of a sestina (to reuse the final words of each line of a stanza in each subsequent stanza) adding much circular complexity, doubling back, mulling things from different perspectives. “…the cat circles round itself.” It’s a great use of the form, to keep coming back to touchstones, which touchstones shift on us, in a poem with a theme of the temporary. “one considers the way // life spends itself away.” This poem alone is worth looking up. I give the link to the magazine below.

Viola Weinberg gives us “Spirit Garden,” chock-full of wonderful images. “the 8′ cannas / blazing red, with firecracker throats… and a tepee of willow / in a sea of tomatoes.” Makes me ache and long to get out in the garden, digging my fingers into loam. Sometimes, it’s enough for a poem just to celebrate. “O, the song of it, the symphony / and happy chaos of growing things.”

I liked Darren C. Demaree’s “Poem for Katie, Queen of Ohio #49,” which begins, “I could
canister // my ghosts…” What a great way to start. It’s a short poem, worked out beautifully.

“Fish Tank,” by Scott Laudati, tells of an absurd moment in an otherwise sad incident. “i believed in everything… except when you told me / your tree had been cursed.” Such naiveté of course often leads to misunderstandings at best, disaster at worst. This tale might fall somewhere in the middle, though it has dour moments. “and the crowd cheered as the noose tightened.” Very worth reading.

Many poems in Convergence have a seasonal theme, and one I liked was “Renewal,” by Ann Wehrman. “Through the windows of the bus… bones of winter trees interminable.” But spring does appear, and with it a burst of fun images. “Magnolias bloom like coy southern belles.”

And finally, “Locks Off,” by John Zedolik. “The hasps of March / have swung, knocking / the rust of winter…” An excellent way to start a poem about changing seasons.

The link to the magazine: Convergence Online Journal

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

The Cape Rock – 46

Apple Valley Review – Spring 18

 

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Long poem from J.D. McClatchy, “Cagaloglu,” in the New Yorker today.  Pretty wild rhyme scheme, ABCACBA.  Tough to pull off, but he does so very well, in terms of getting a very conversational tone.  And somehow from it we can deduce the poem is going to be fun.  “Gods, whenever they annunciate, // long for romance…”  Maybe I just like that line because I went to Annunciation School, a million billion years ago, and never would ‘a thunk to have fun with it that way.  It’s a long poem, covers two pages, has its earthy, eeww moments, “So I put it in my mouth and taste // two dank gobbets…” Always good.  It then builds to a traditional climax: “Encumbered by the weight of a tear” (still pretty tongue-in-cheek) and a quiet pool after the waterfall ending.  Very slick, very pro.  Showing us how it’s done.

I’d like to say analyzing the poem for the blog has given me a deeper appreciation for McClatchy, who has puzzled me some in the past, and maybe it has, but I do think this is also one of his finest hours.

I’ve taken a couple runs at discussing the other poem in the issue, “Country Songs,” by Dora Malech.  First, I admit it is over my head.  Language poetry, I guess, by which we mean it doesn’t make any hooting sense.  It has rhymes.  It has cool lines.  “…close // enough for their color together to make // a kind of ringing.”  But it doesn’t cohere.  Take all these cool images, string them together, put a resonance with a little boy shouting “You and what army” at the beginning, then “This army, but not me.” at the end, and ring-a-ding, we have a poem.  Ohhhh-kay.  Whatever you say, folks.  Someone please pass me the secret decoder ring, please, cuz I’m lost in the fruit loops here.

Finally, I ask my wife, who does much decoding for me, and she points out there’s a sense of rage running through the poem, an anger at what is going on, a helplessness.  “No secret that the sun and // moon have always slept in separate beds.”

The poem reads better through the glass of that pop bottle, but there is still much in it that doesn’t support that theme.  So be warned  — unless you like that sort of thing, in which case maybe you should be alarmed.   ;->

Enlightenment through Poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

The Nation – Apr 9, 2018

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

The New Yorker – Apr 2 2018

 

 

 

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