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Rattle – Winter 2013

It would be tempting. Imagine saying,
“Let there be light.” And, poof, there’s light.
The magic word is any word you want it to be—
bucket, for example, or asphalt, and into the world
tumble jet planes, hair dryers, and vegetarian restaurants.

It would be tempting. Imagine saying,
“Let there be light.” And, poof, there’s light.
The magic word is any word you want it to be—
bucket, for example, or asphalt, and into the world
tumble jet planes, hair dryers, and vegetarian restaurants.

To be fair, this quote from David Romtvedt’s “Dilemmas of the Angels: Extraterrestrial” is taken somewhat out of context. But I can’t get it out of my head. The piece, published along with another dilemma subtitled “Intention,” eloquently explores the strangeness of humanity through the use of angels, outsiders looking in. Overall, both poems are impressively written, conversational in tone and heavy in subject matter. But one of the things that stuck with me most about this stanza after reading the poem several times was how well it can be applied to Rattle as a whole. It fits so well with a journal whose aim is solely to celebrate “how moving language alone can be.” In this latest theme-less issue of Rattle, the poets get to play God. Language is manipulated and shown off beautifully in different forms. It seems that Rattle seeks only to share the worlds created by words, and this issue is packed with amazing and varied poems.

From Jill Klein’s prose-y, almost stream of consciousness “How to Peel a Prawn” to Tina Parker’s simplistic but meaningful “My Four-Year-Old Asks What Happens When People Die and When I Hesitate She Answers Her Own Question,” the heartfelt writing tugs at the cores of its readers because of its relatability. Love, sex, fear, death, birth—all of these are highlighted time and again throughout Rattle’s pages, helping to make it an interesting collection that’s hard to put down.

In “The Famine of Love” by Jenneva Scholz, for example, loss materializes in every aspect of the speaker’s life. When Cupid put down his bow, “the fruit flies fell around the fruit bowl and the air was still.” All the animals stopped mating, and soon the fields were “empty of hum and buzzing, empty of peaches / and wheat.” The speaker’s physical starvation is mirrored by his loss of love/attraction to his wife, made powerfully clear when he says, “Re-reading her letters / I think, I’m so hungry I could let you starve.” And, in the last few lines, he simultaneously expresses hope and despair:

Some things might outlast this. Tortoises, maybe.
But look at them: each grooved to fit smoothly with the other,
built to heave those heavy bodies together and lock in.
See how his belly is arched
to cradle her shell.
I keep thinking: I don’t need her.
I keep opening the cupboard to find nothing.

The flowing, easy rhythm and vibrant imagery made this piece one of my favorites in the collection.

Also included is the winner of the 2013 Rattle poetry prize and 10 finalists. Roberto Ascalon’s “The Fire This Time” comes like a desperate shout, a cry, lacking much punctuation, posing questions aimed at everyone while expecting no answers. From the 10 finalists, one will be chosen by the subscribers as a runner up—a form of prize-giving I find particularly admirable. And the best part about it? All of the finalists’ poems are incredibly impressive. It may actually be difficult for people to pick a favorite, though “My Mother Told Us Not to Have Children” by Rebecca Gayle Howell and “Laundry List” by Michelle Ornat are two standouts, in my mind.

The issue finishes out with a lengthy, funny, honest conversation between Editor Timothy Green and poet Ron Koertge about failed novels, children’s literature, teaching, and finding your muse, among other things. It’s not often that I read literary magazines consisting of only poetry, but if they’re anything like Rattle, I’d be happy to do it every day.
[www.rattle.com]

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