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Knockout Literary Magazine – Spring 2008

This handsome inaugural issue of Knockout Literary Magazine starts with a poem by Marvin Bell that could serve as a mission statement. “Knockout Poem” is a lament for the state of contemporary poetry: “I was like them. Even before the appetite for self-promotion / and glamour overtook our literature, back when books were books.” It is also a call to arms: “Poetry should have punch.” (A knockout, one assumes.)

This handsome inaugural issue of Knockout Literary Magazine starts with a poem by Marvin Bell that could serve as a mission statement. “Knockout Poem” is a lament for the state of contemporary poetry: “I was like them. Even before the appetite for self-promotion / and glamour overtook our literature, back when books were books.” It is also a call to arms: “Poetry should have punch.” (A knockout, one assumes.)

Christopher Hennessy presents three poems, including “Thief,” a vivid imagining of the thoughts of an Incan girl before she is frozen to a mountaintop, later to be discovered in 1995. Added to the girl’s narrative is an interesting meditation on the meaning we assign to inanimate objects.

Four translations from the seventh- to eighth-century Chinese poets offer a familiar reminder that people don’t change. There is something comforting in the thought that reunited lovers have always felt the resigned acceptance of their feelings. Ouyang Jiong’s poem, translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping, depicts two people who have decided not to “talk of tears.” The scene is set: “As fragrance of musk and orchids swells, I hear you panting, / and glimpse your skin through sheer silk. / For a moment, at least, you won’t call me heartless man.”

Dan Pinkerton’s “The Pit” mines a big metaphor, depicting a town that digs a huge pit to serve as a tourist attraction. “Lead-lined and laddered, the pit became / orphanage for unwanted things,” allowing Pinkerton to demonstrate that vanity provides humans with the opportunity to act in an ugly manner.

A balanced mix of the realistic and the abstract, Knockout’s poems and presentation seem poised to combat work that Bell dismisses as “This deadly politeness, this glamour-puss poetry.”
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