Home » Newpages Blog » Denver Quarterly – 2010

Denver Quarterly – 2010

“For a long time we looked at the world and thought not,” begins Suzanne Buffam’s (nonfiction?) story “Trying.” This exceptionally good issue of Denver Quarterly is not merely trying, it succeeds, as does Buffam’s highly original piece on trying to conceive a child, part personal story – part musing on history and biology. Perhaps it does not matter that I do not know if the three prose pieces included among the work of nearly three-dozen poets and an interview with Dawn Lundy Martin, whose newest poetry collection will soon be released, are fiction or nonfiction.

“For a long time we looked at the world and thought not,” begins Suzanne Buffam’s (nonfiction?) story “Trying.” This exceptionally good issue of Denver Quarterly is not merely trying, it succeeds, as does Buffam’s highly original piece on trying to conceive a child, part personal story – part musing on history and biology. Perhaps it does not matter that I do not know if the three prose pieces included among the work of nearly three-dozen poets and an interview with Dawn Lundy Martin, whose newest poetry collection will soon be released, are fiction or nonfiction.

The TOC includes some names with huge reputations (Rae Armantrout, Marvin Bell, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Richard Kostelanetz, David St. John), but all of the work in this issue demonstrates huge talent. Most significantly, this is serious, intelligent, polished work that demands time and attention, but offers satisfying rewards – time well spent.

There is nothing deliberately coy or oblique, nothing meant to deter, rather than encourage engagement, nothing meant to deliberately confuse (at least not without some reasonable resolution), nothing meant to dissuade, discourage, or detract from finding meaning – just the fine poetic principle that true understanding comes from a deep level of engagement with the text, not surface reading. Reading of this sort is to me one of poetry’s purposes and joys, and I am grateful to find page after page like this in this issue.

A generous editorial vision makes this issue all the more appealing, with poems as different from each other as Natalie Lyalin’s “The Occidental Mountains” (“This is a dispatch: / Douglas-fir, Apache Pine, Chihuahua Pine, Mexican Pinyon, Lumholtz’s Pine, Yecora Pine / Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, and Mexican Douglas-fir. Arizona Oak, Emory Oak, Mexican Blue Oak. Large skinny hawks overhead.”) and “Departure” by Christina Hutchins, which begins:

a station.
a station growing smaller and smaller.
a moment ago there was a station.

Smart prose poems from Kopenhaga by Polish writer Grzegorz Wroblewski are smartly translated by Piotr Gwiazda, who manages to capture the poet’s wry tone. J. David Stevens contributes a tongue-in-cheek prose poem “When the Rules Changed” (over breakfast, he informs us) and a list poem “Past Winners Include,” a century of dated wins (“The one tallying the fallen sparrows” was the 1977 champ).

Claire Donato contributes a spare and uncannily perceptive prose poem, “Manifesto La Terre/Mori;” Rachel Blau DuPlessis gives us science and philosophy in “Draft Erg: Erg;” Joseph Lease’s lovely prose poems, “Send My Roots Rain,” are poignant and original; Christopher Salerno’s “Photocopy of the Oral Tradition” is a glorious example of the economy with which poetry can succeed: “To become to bravery / what saying is to the sentence.”

Richard Kostelanetz contributes “Entangling/Disentangling,” an essay on his work with experimental texts: “I want to write a text that will have sixty-four words that can be entangled with another text that is likewise sixty-four words in length so that the words of this story are set between the words of the other in a successive ratio of one word at a time then two words then four sixteen and sixty-four until the stories become separate again.” I did not count, but I appreciated the suggestion that counting might, well…count.

And without a doubt, this issue of the journal matters and…counts.
[www.denverquarterly.com]

Spread the word!