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The American Poetry Review – Sept 2009

Volume 44 Number 4

July/August 2015


Valerie Wieland

The American Poetry Review features poetry, of course, and literary essays that are didactic, exhaustive studies on poets and poems, exploring all possible avenues of meaning from every possible angle. And that’s a good thing. The American Poetry Review features poetry, of course, and literary essays that are didactic, exhaustive studies on poets and poems, exploring all possible avenues of meaning from every possible angle. And that’s a good thing.

A special supplement salutes Frank Stanford (1948-1978) with his poems and an essay by Anna Journey. She writes extensively on Stanford and two new books: What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford and Hidden Water: From the Frank Stanford Archives. Stanford wrote masses of poetry using few capital letters and pretty much no punctuation. So in reading his work, you have to frequently backtrack to determine where a standard sentence would begin or end.

Poet Anne Marie Macari incorporates bits from other poets, a biologist, and a theologian to illustrate her essay “Lyric Impulse in a Time of Extinction.” And Phillip M. Richards’s essay on Jay Wright compares the 80-year-old Wright’s early work to Robert Hayden’s, then elaborates on Wright’s path to distinction.

Hannah Baker Saltmarsh, in her essay “Thom Gunn Undone,” highlights and examines confessional poems about the late poet’s mother, who committed suicide. Quoting from Gunn’s “The Gas-poker”:

One image from the flow
Sticks in the stubborn mind:
A sort of backwards flute.
The poker that she held up
Breathed from the holes aligned
Into her mouth till, filled up
By its music, she was mute.

On to featured poets, in order of appearance. Alicia Jo Rabins leads off. In “Florida” she closes with “the whole state is a charm bracelet / on the wrist of a girl / you’re not supposed to touch.” Thomas Lux is next. In “Ode to the Archipelagoes of Discarded Chewing Gum on Sidewalks”: “They sink into concrete and cling.” and “Happy spring after a winter under snow, ice. / They lie too low for the shovel’s scrape.”

Jay Nebel, whose bio states he “delivers juice for a living,” begins “Trouble Poem”:

Every time the phone rings
I think I’m in trouble.
I’m in the stolen Honda again.
I’m out in the park scratching
my name into the picnic table with a pocket knife

Jennifer Chang contributes two poems and Kirsten Kaschock contributes five. Kaschock’s 15-line, numbered “0. This is not a sonnet” reveals a relationship:

7. [ . . . ] We
8. were supposed to go on and on. Being. I wanted
9. it ugly so I could complain, the way I did before
10. you, of every little monstrous thing.

We get a bonus from Frannie Lindsay. She explains the impetus behind writing “Improvisation for a Friend in a Time of Sorrow.” I think it would be nice if more poems came with explanatory information.

R.A. Villanueva has a powerful three-part poem called “Mass.” From the third stanza: “Today they are / burning the names of the boys they are/shooting in the street [ . . . ]”

James Cummins writes “Stick,” a narrative poem about teenaged boys that makes you want to high-five one of them. David Kirby incorporates quotes from Claes Oldenburg to perfect his poem, “You’ve Built Your Own Mosque.” Elegies by William Kistler take as a starting point Dogen Versions by Stephen Berg, who cofounded The American Poetry Review.

Among the remaining poets rounding out this edition are Sarah Rose Nordgren and Stefanie Wortman who share a page. Nordgren writes in “Moral Animal”: “taking its own shape but still / stuck to me in places like a falcon // struggling on flypaper.” Wortman writes a twist into “When I Can’t Pretend to Eat Her” about giving kisses to her daughter.

Tom Sleigh rightfully owns the back cover with “XVII”: “The pictures are so silent in their silent spaces, // the worlds long past, the people painted seeming fated / to be graced or disgraced in those final postures.”

Each issue of The American Poetry Review is an education and a range of treats, and this July/August 2015 issue is no exception to the rule.

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