Sugar House Review is an independent poetry journal based in Salt Lake City, UT. It is named after one of the oldest and most artistic neighborhoods in the city, Sugar House. The journal aims not only to be rooted in their region and to gain local recognition, but to also appeal to a larger national and international audience. This desire for a global reach ensures that each issue of Sugar House Review is filled with great poetry and thoughtful reviews. As the artwork of this issue suggests the underlying theme is of the honeybee, each poem calls upon the “spirit” of the honeybee in some form of another making issue number nine a delectable issue.
Gary Jackson’s poem “Because A Flight to D.C. Is Too Expensive When You’re Paying A Car Note and Your Husband Still Ain’t Found Work” is a poem that speaks to the pain in the repetition that can exist in interacting with a loved one suffering from dementia as well as the lingering pain of losing and having lost. Jackson creates the thread of repetition with his first line, stating, “Nearing the end of line”; this line or parts of this line are repeated in four out of six stanzas. This repetition works to create the same dizzying effect in the reader that the characters in the poem are feeling. The poem discusses that it is not only painful to witness the loved one’s health and mental capacities declining, but their forgetfulness can also often cause pain, as the main character is reminded and compared to her dead daughter: “my mother wants to see my daughter / I remind her of the dead, // tell her Gina died years ago, a thread / cut short . . .” This is a poem you can read again and again and learn something new from each time; the line breaks, the rhyme scheme, the words themselves, all interact to create a powerful impact on the reader.
Another great poem in this issue is “Your Ghost” by Hillary Gravendyk. The first thing the reader may notice with this poem is its lack of punctuation; while not completely devoid of punctuation, it is very sparse. This is a poem of memories or ghosts (for the sake of this poem they could be synonymous), the mind’s ability to change the reality of a memory regardless of how disastrous it may have been, and cause a yearning for that ghost or memory that created such disaster while at the same time knowing it would be bad to return to such a memory: “Parted from the scene of old disasters / a magnet pulling on memory in two directions.” These first two lines also speak to the “why” in the question, “Why does the author leave out punctuation in this poem?” It is two allow for the memory the reader is reading about to be “split” or read in two different ways, “directions.” As the poem nears its end, it pulls back to the present and away from the ghost and introduces punctuation:
I want to get drunk, hit rock bottom, kill something small
I want to break every heart in the room: your apparition
curled around my neck like an animal
made from clouds.
Not only does Gravendyk use punctuation to bring things into reality, but she also pulls the readers in by making them realize they are still being pulled in two directions despite the presence of her memory; a ghost is still lingering as she compares hearts to apparitions, and the readers are left to decide if love is worth the pain or not.
One final poem worth checking out is the Mark Wagenaar’s “The Stitches That Hold the World Together (The Beekeeper’s Eschatology),” which, in one way or another, brings the loose threads from the entire issue together. The topic of the piece is just as the title suggests: it is a beekeeper’s view on death. The eloquence lies in Wagenaar’s ability to make the poem flow like honey with well-placed line breaks that are impactful, yet do not disrupt the flow in the least bit:
At dawn the bees wake in bean husks while chimney tops rise
from earth, until new towns stand shipwrecked
on the ruins of old cities. And like the ruins of stingers persist,
beyond harm or plucking, a body’s absence
at both ends, the life they pierced & the life they’ve taken.
The narrator uses “dawn” as another way to describe the beginning of life for a bee or human and then allows “stingers” to be taken to literally mean “stingers” or to represent anything that may take a life, such as cancer or a stroke, because once that thing kills its host it too will die, just like a bee upon losing its stinger. The poem continues:
We ask questions because our alphabets pierce the dark
for a moment, the questions what we’ve made of a lack of answers,
What we’ve made of the dark & counted hollows of the body,
questions that allow us a glimpse into the hereafter
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
even as the bees sleep again when the sun sinks, the sunset
a hundred veils in flames, even as you, too, sleep fast in a husk.
As quickly as Wagenaar starts the piece, he has gone through a day, a life cycle, and ends in the dark, the place where humans pull their stringers out to “pierce the dark,” poke death, play with fire, be human.
So, what are you waiting for? Skip a cup of coffee from Starbucks and pick up an issue of Sugar House Review. Not only are there tons of great poems to check out, but there are also several great book reviews that are worth a read too.