for March 2014
by David Shumate
The prose poem, with its lack of intentional enjambment, demands of the writer a sense of daring because the turns come not from line breaks but from a willingness to leap. There are a handful of poets working in this difficult genre who can leap consistently and exquisitely, but David Shumate couples this with an uncanny ability to stick the landing. His latest collection doesn’t stick every landing, but it’s as close as we can get in this genre to a masterpiece. An excerpt from “My Desk Sets Sail”:
Again this morning my desk sets sail like a schooner from its harbor. It is a fragile craft easily shattered on the shores. So far good fortune has accompanied me as if soggy old Poseidon were my friend. I lick my finger and raise it to the wind as I’ve seen sailors do, though I do not know what this portends. When I am hungry, I cast out a net. When it’s time to sleep, I stretch out on the deck. I travel for weeks on this little galleon. Rowing with only a pen.
—Cameron Conaway, contributor/subscriber (March 25, 2014)
. . .
by Richard Eric Johnson
Once history was poetry. Richard Eric Johnson’s Memoir Poetic of a Naked Cop revives that old tradition, recording the author’s experiences as a soldier and a policeman. I say history, not biography, because the poems present sharp, sometimes harsh pictures, not so much the poet’s feelings about them. Mostly free verse but with some rhyme and plenty of wordplay, the poems owe something to Whitman (“Learned Astronomer”) but at least as much to rap. This work excites me because it’s direct and simple, clearly evoking pictures of an era and of a life.
—Conrad Geller, contributor/subscriber (March 16, 2014)
. . .
by Evan Peterson
Evan Peterson addresses famous “final girls” from sci-fi and slasher films—Ripley from Alien, Sarah Connor from Terminator—with both reverence and irreverent humor in this chapbook. Peterson takes the triumph over predator, parent, and fiend alike and weaves his own merry celebration around it. From “The 80s <A Slasher Film Blamed on Slasher Films>”:
Jamie Lee loves Janet Leigh
& audiences love a massive head trauma …
This is a sequel, so up the ante:
different weapons for every murder.
Who are we killing today? <the homeless>
and with what? <antlers>
I love antlers! <fucking hipster>
My personal favorite poem (but difficult to excerpt) is “Ellen Ripley/Alien Sigourney Weaver/1979” which interweaves computer code with lyric lines. As someone with a keen interest in pop culture poetry, I loved this quirky take on familiar horror tropes.
—Jeannine Hall Gailey, contributor/subscriber (March 14, 2014)
. . .
by Jennifer Tseng, tr. by Mengying Han and Aaron Crippen
Ethereal, magical, full of, as Jean Valentine says on the dust jacket, “humor, mystery, grief and along with grief, unguarded understanding and puzzlement, side by side.” I was bowled over by these elegant poems and wondered at the facility with which the translators captured the musicality of each piece, as in the poem, “The Beloved’s Singing Heard Through a Closed Door,” which starts like this:
Like foxgloves, like a coat mending itself
in a dove’s night, ascending then descending
under a bell-shaped light, as one sees
at the threshold of the mind’s immortal view
the yellow house of childhood unhewn …
Tseng has crafted a collection filled with exquisite poetry. This is a bedside table collection, one I won’t be able to shelve anytime soon.
—Kelly Fordon, contributor/subscriber (March 6, 2014)
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