If you’re a poetry reader, you’ll recognize many names here (John Balaban, Nicholas Samaras, Sydney Lea, Gloria Vando) and be pleased to see their new work. And you’ll be pleased, too, with the quality of the work presented by poets whose names you may not necessarily recognize (Shannon Ward, Patrick Hicks, Caleb Beissert) and then most especially with the fine reviews by Phebe Davidson, Peter Makuck, and Richard Simpson.
I was moved by “To Take Them From the Air,” by Marcus Myers, a 9/11-themed poem that is vivid and memorable, bringing to life a child’s perspective on the sheer awe of the event: “That just happened!” I was also move by Shannon Ward’s “Stray,” with its vast bi-coastal perspective honed to a measured, restrained lament: “If the breadcrumb trail of relics I’ve left / along America’s coastal highways // somehow resembles my concept of self, / then the discarded coins // and stray earrings shine holy / under empty hotel beds.” Ward creates an atmosphere and a complex set of emotional realities in nine spare couplets.
Doug Ramspeck’s “Palm of the Hand,” is an effective poem about work, a theme that never ceases to fascinate me, since it is the way in which most of us spend the majority of our time, yet seems to occupy so little of our artistic exploration. Ramspeck knows how to make lyric of narrative and turn story into image. Patrick Hicks turns Shakespeare (“After the First Performance of Hamlet”) into more Shakespeare, extending the Bard’s legacy: “and everyone, including Shakespeare, / will go to bed believing that just another day / has changed costume into night.”