Lyrical essays and poetry rely upon the power of metaphor and associative thinking to create a deeper, more personal interpretation for the reader. The writers in this issue of the Seneca Review walk a fine line, hoping to tickle the reader’s imagination while providing enough detail to ground the piece in something resembling the real world. Most of the time, the authors are quite successful, providing delicious food for thought.
Donald Platt’s “La Playa Los Muertos” is an extended observational poem about the author’s family trip to Mexico’s Beach of the Dead. Through the course of the poem, Platt finds new methods to do the work of the traditional travel narrative. We learn about the exchange rate, we meet some of the interesting characters residing in Puerto Vallarta, and we are placed in the fish-out-of-water mindset. All the while, the piece captures the reader because Platt chooses the most interesting details and casts them in sparse but suggestive language.
The worlds of history and poetry don’t collide nearly enough. Bridgette Bates’ poem “Torso of a General” reminds us that our understanding of history is the result of a partnership between right brain and left brain. During her examination of a thousand-year-old body recovered from a tomb, Bates ceases to think of the object as a “corpse.” The poem makes an important point about the process by which we understand the natural world. After spending so much time speculating about the general and the life he must have led, she hears the guards’ five-minute warning to the close of the museum, which reminds her of “the visiting hours of a hospital winding down. / The bedsheet pulled over a head for sleep.”
In his poem “Rebirth,” Keith Alexander suggests that the countless benefits of the feminist movement have been accompanied by at least one question society has yet to answer: what is the new place of the man in American culture, and how can he reconcile these expectations with thousands of years of patriarchal conditioning? The protagonist of the poem is “sorry he’s the father” and is “tired of being / what everyone avoids or protests, / the villain in diaries and soap operas, / a son of colonial officers in a blood history.” The final image in the poem suggests that the transition for males will not be easy or swift.
This issue of the Seneca Review succeeds most when the abstract explorations of human existence are grounded in the concrete. In all, editor David Weiss and his colleagues have found work that challenges the reader to explore new ideas while extending a guiding hand.