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The Bitter Oleander - 2004

This journal is always unpredictable and sometimes even startling. Editor Paul B. Roth promises to free us from "enslavement to the usual and expected" and the unexpected is certainly one of The Bitter Oleander's trademarks. "The fish arrived in my dresser drawer, / swathed in socks, its eyes calm as a desert."—a poem by Katherine Sanchez Espano opens the issue. This fish has something to say, of course: "I open its mouth and see pictures / of a lost Ticuman woman / who looks like me.” "The Fish" is representative of the issue as a whole: powerful work that means to change the way we think about the world around us or, at the very least, to change the way we read. The centerpiece of the issue is a series of poems by six Mexican poets, along with their "ars poetica." While I would like to have seen the Spanish (marvelous poems by Casimiro de Brito are also presented here both in Portuguese and in translation), for the most part, the translations are fluid and sensitive. I didn't stumble, wondering what the original might have been. I wish I could retype every one of these poems here, as whatever I will say is insufficient to convey the range, depth, and strength of this work. "Poetry shatters your mouth" Martin Camps reminds us in his poem, "Persistence of Water." And so it does.
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Review Posted on December 31, 2004
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