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Kestrel – Spring 2011

The cover art chosen for the Spring 2011 issue of Kestrel is a misty-blue piece titled Okeanos IV 2010 by Kathleen Holder, the visual artist featured in this issue. The artwork reminds me of a cold day on a beach, where the sky and the water fuse. Donna Long writes in her editorial comment, the submissions selected for publication sometimes “just seem cosmically ordained to share an issue.” Long tells us water is this cosmic connection, bending and rolling through the work like the thread of a river tying up a landscape. And I see that connection from the opening essay, “Upstream Against Forgetting” by Rob Merritt, to the poems, such as “Aqua Vitae” by Charles Tisdale or “Meditation: Labor Day” by Nancy Takacs. Wonderful.

The cover art chosen for the Spring 2011 issue of Kestrel is a misty-blue piece titled Okeanos IV 2010 by Kathleen Holder, the visual artist featured in this issue. The artwork reminds me of a cold day on a beach, where the sky and the water fuse. Donna Long writes in her editorial comment, the submissions selected for publication sometimes “just seem cosmically ordained to share an issue.” Long tells us water is this cosmic connection, bending and rolling through the work like the thread of a river tying up a landscape. And I see that connection from the opening essay, “Upstream Against Forgetting” by Rob Merritt, to the poems, such as “Aqua Vitae” by Charles Tisdale or “Meditation: Labor Day” by Nancy Takacs. Wonderful.

The editors have selected fantastic work for this issue. They possess wonderful sound—rhythms and rolls—which remind me of rivers. Let me digress for a moment. I enjoy fishing in the spring and summer. I wade through streams and rivers, casting to trout. Every moment on the river, I feel the force of the water as it pushes me along, or pushes me back. Sometimes it even threatens to pull me down. Regardless, it always has a grip on me, holding me. Even more, it whispers to me. I have often looked back over my shoulder thinking I’ve heard words in the water. Anyone who has spent time near rivers has heard it—playful and inviting, but always powerful.

I’m reminded of this rhythm in the poem “Disperspective,” by William Hathaway: “When night / falls and the road becomes / a gushing stream of light, out / creep dark creature to eat / the dead swept up on the shores of that river.” Not to ignore the powerful and disturbing image evoked, the sound of these few lines has me rereading and rolling those alliterate r’s over and over, listening. Hearing the long e’s before they shift to the flat thunk of the short e of “dead” and “swept.”

Marc Hudson, in his poem “If Walt Whitman is Grass,” writes:

I walked out into Seattle rain
feeling a strange elation,
as if I were the acolyte
of a mild-mannered apocalypse,
as if through infinite space
a fine mist were processing,
blurring well-kept boundaries.

Again, the language in this poem lifts and falls like water rushing over rocks; it has a natural, though seemingly crafted rhythm. There is playfulness in the echoing “a” in “rain,” “strange,” “elation,” and “space” entwined with the “infinite […] fine mist.” At the end of the poem, Hudson writes: “So I imagine him dissolving / the speeches of politicians / the way lichen softens, then assimilates, the most obdurate rock.” Those slippery s’s, the whispering hush of deep water just before it falls over the edge, crashing on hard sounds, those immovable, heavy short o’s.

I don’t have far to go in this issue to find even more examples. I turn the page and I’m reading Devon Miller-Duggan’s “The Angel Quiz”: “Suppose the dark and sleaze of flesh intrigue them.” Or I’m being drawn into Zeke Jarvis’s story “Eulogy,” where a family is practicing the father’s eulogy on a hot summer day, in front of the plain coffin he has made for himself: “Susie sighed loud enough to show that she knew what she was doing. Little Jack had twisted his tie to almost backwards. ‘Is Daddy going to die soon, Mommy?’”

About a year ago, October 2010, Robert Pinsky wrote an article for the online magazine, Slate.com, titled “Keener Sounds,” in which he reminds us that poetry has a long history of great sounds that don’t necessarily rhyme. He points out the great sounds found in poems by Frost and Williams. He adds: “it’s clumsy work, trying to trace these audible subtleties. I’ll just point to the beauty […] without trying to describe any further what we hear: The hearing itself is an action of consciousness, a kind of awakening and of keeping.” So I’ll leave it at that. The Spring 2011 issue of Kestrel, that bird with the distinctive cry, is full of beautiful, “audible subtleties.” It is not unlike the whispering of a river, the roaring of a falls, or the incessant calling of waves.
[www.fairmontstate.edu/kestrel]

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