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Off the Coast – Winter 2014

This issue of Off the Coast carries a cover theme of “Ice Fishing,” but I am under the firm belief that was somebody’s joke to play on an outdoorsman like myself. Luckily, I really enjoy poetry, and this issue contains 41 poetic offerings for readers to peruse. None of them deal with the directive of “Ice Fishing,” but for a bad pun laced with reality, I will say that the issue felt to be casting about a bit.

This issue of Off the Coast carries a cover theme of “Ice Fishing,” but I am under the firm belief that was somebody’s joke to play on an outdoorsman like myself. Luckily, I really enjoy poetry, and this issue contains 41 poetic offerings for readers to peruse. None of them deal with the directive of “Ice Fishing,” but for a bad pun laced with reality, I will say that the issue felt to be casting about a bit.

A couple of early poems in the issue that really spoke to me were “The Soul Mate Ache” by Lisa T. W. Jones and “The Last Days of Balkh Bastan (2013)” by M. E. Silverman. Loss is a universal theme, often dealt with in poetics, but both of these authors did an outstanding job of drawing in my attention and making me feel empathy for characters I can neither confirm nor deny exist in reality. A couple of the strongest lines in Jones’s poem read, “Looking for bliss, any bliss / To be unknown without it.” There is a brilliance in those lines that an individual is meant to avoid loneliness in order to avoid fear. This leads into some of the words contained in Silverman’s poem:

The kebab café will soon shut down.
The city’s hotels are hollow.
The caterers call less. Everyone is scared
to leave their home.

In both of the poems, I felt there, with the individuals; empathy, emotion evoked in writing. Success.

As I was reading through this issue, I noticed several occasions were the editors seem to have paired works of similar subject matter. For example, “Motley Fool” by Sharon Olson comes only two pages after “The Sphinx” by Michael Cantor. Each of those poems left me with a feeling of frustration for the narrator. They both dealt with the dichotomies of proper versus improper behavior, living one way but desiring another. Butterflies were another common theme between poems later in the issue, as showcased in “Highlights” by Ace Boggess and “At the Lathe” by Ivan Hobson.

Off the Coast is printed in Maine, but features works from poets residing anywhere. It is billed as an International Journal. It strikes me a little funny that one of the other strong poems I felt moved by in the issue was from my own geographic region, the Northwest US. “When Rain Pulls the Sky Low” by Joannie Strangeland has a haunting feel to it that I believe readers will connect with, regardless of their own geographic location. Lines like, “Oh, for billowing fronts to gather / high overhead, slate-violet swollen before a storm” and “like a horse with blinders on, hooves clopping,” make evocative images bounce off the inside of my brain, and I believe other readers will feel the same. Taken as a whole, the poem is quite good.

To prove I’m not being nepotistic in my reviewing, I present my thorough enjoyment of “Moonshines in Georgia” by C. S. Vincent. The author hails from Washington, PA and while I do enjoy the poem as a whole, the line “raking water wrinkles like a wayward drunk” is probably my favorite single line in the entire issue.

Several pages of the issue’s closing are used for poetry book reviews. Sheila Mullen Twyman did a wonderful job of making me want to purchase a copy of Lee Sharkey’s book Calendars of Fire. Several of Sharkey’s lines are highlighted in the review, making it less about what the reviewer thought and more about the actual work.

The photos in this issue did not stand out to me as much as the cover and rear flap artworks by Debra Arter. Peter Ingrasselino’s two photos that were selected among the 10 internal pictures were my favorite. One of them dealt with a typewriter as its main subject; the other dealt with a butterfly, looping back into editorial connectivity!

Pick up this issue for its widely cast net of poetic interests. Do not be disappointed with its lack of “Ice Fishing” works, but instead enjoy the winter field of never knowing what’s coming out from the hole you have cut and are now pulling words from.
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