Anti-(poetry) is a poetry journal that flouts the rules of poetry by saying they search for poems that are contrary to traditional standards and different than other journals and current conventions in the genre – and to be sure they have an anarchist’s glee about them in the modes of expression they utilize. They publish two full issues a year while featuring different poets every two weeks.
We begin with Jill Alexander Essbaum’s, featured poet #11, “Ballad of the First Wife,” a satirical look at a woman who is left behind by her man:
I am the pearl that your oyster spat out.
I am the scramsax plunged into your belly.
The smocking on your collar, I mock your demeanor.
I’m mean, then meaner. I mean what I say.
I am the woman that you threw away.
This is an intriguing rapidly-paced piece that invokes the power of the I to speak to the powerlessness of a woman often in such situations, and the bitterness a woman suffers in the journey to purge the emotions and memories of such tumultuous hurts.
With Issue 2, we are presented with a multitude of diverse voices, in terms of style and substance, that attempt to cross the restricted border of what is considered poetry. In “Drowning in Paradise,” by Ada Limon, the poem takes on the spirit of Milton’s Paradise Lost:
The low hanging hibiscus coos out
its swollen-mouth flower song
to the rare bee holding its tongue
and I’m drunk on the bully world again –
a fueled up fluster coming on.
Look, even two oceans can collide here in the belly of white islands.
This poem is not only an homage to Milton and turning things on its head, but a more traditional poetic device of living creatures, such as a bee or plant, provided with a human voice. In “Information Kiosk” by Jason Bredle, the reader is directly addressed and ordered to follow the capitalistic and materialistic mantras of the United States of America in the most mocking and hilarious way possible:
Tonight, on action news at nine,
walnuts may kill you! We’ll tell you how right after this.
The shadow of a walnut is a baby fist,
the inside of a walnut is a baby shadow, the inside of a baby
is a walnut fist. I no longer drink milk because it reminds me
of clouds, blossoming like white coloring
in a glass of water.
We too can sense the information overload of the age after getting a taste of this seriously funny poem.
And lastly but not least, ravenous readers, I present to you the poem “Sayings Lifted from The Confessions of a Convicted Thief” by William Aarnes. It has great lines like
It took months of lurking
in the aisles of drug stores
but the first woman I married
was the fetching one I followed home
after watching her shoplift
an eyeliner and toothbrush
or “There’s pleasure in knowing / so many people / confuse social security / with identity.” This poem is anathema to the poems of most modern poets, even the ones who use humor as a major component. It’s as if they come from a standup comedian’s act, not merely a humorist.
Anti-(poetry) is written in the spirit of the anarchist or contrarians; it utilizes conventions merely to deconstruct or make them seem new. It is a fearless place for writers and readers with a spine who can take a joke. If you want to read a journal that uses humor as a weapon, the antithesis of what is often considered serious poetry, than take a seat, open your eyes and pay attention, you’re in for show.