When I write a review, I try to organize it around the distinct pillars in the book that define the reading experience for me. With The Spoon River Poetry Review, that doesn’t work so well. There are as many writing styles as there are poets in this volume. Pillars here are like museum artifacts: free-standing, but still awesome to look at. Three of the best: first, a spotlight on Illinois poet Gale Renee Walden, who explains how her love of music influenced her poetry: “I read poems by what meter I thought they were in: 3/4 or 4/4 and I found myself liking poetry that switched meter. I like noticing when language moves into a different key.” Next, the SRPR contest winners, longer poems that stand on the shoulders of giants, which include a feminist reconstruction of Tolstoy’s “The Porcelain Doll.” The last is a review, “Six Volumes of Contemporary Greek Poetry,” which could serve well the international lit types with the time and resources to find the volumes examined. And even with these mentions, I’m still short-changing the talents whose names I recognize (Daneen Wardrop, Melody S. Gee) and the names everyone knows (Bertolt Brecht in translation), all of whom play their own special part. One standout, a translation of Rene Guy Cadou, succeeds in adding flavor to the manuscript by twisting an already twisted metaphor into a simile:
A manuscript that is but a distressing page
Where man and his anguish lie flat on their backs
Like the far corner of an attic lit by apples
Where a six year old child sits with his mutilated toy.
[The Spoon River Poetry Review, 4240 English Department, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois 61790-4240. Single issue $10. www.litline.org/spoon] —Christopher Mote