The inaugural issue of this self-defined “independent poetry magazine” presents the work of three dozen poets with no fanfare, pronouncements of intentions or predilections, no submission policy statement, no announcement of prizes or awards, no editorial commentary, and no explanation of its name. In fact, the only information about the journal appears at the end of the its 74 (small format) glossy pages: one page listing the four staff members and editorial address in Salt Lake City, UT and a note that the journal is published biannually; the other a “thank you” to the journal’s sponsor (“Thank you to our sugar daddy”), Nations Title Agency, Inc. in Midvale, Utah.
The Table of Contents shouts more loudly, nonetheless: Paul Muldoon, Natasha Sajé, Jerome Rothenberg, Richard Robbins, Rane Arroyo among the 35 contributors. If there is anything resembling a special feature, it would be three poems by the late Kenneth Brewer, poet laureate of Utah from 2003-06 and author of 10 books of poetry. “These poems helped push Sugar House from idea to reality,” the editors note quietly at the end of the series (the only time they insert themselves in the journal), and Brewer’s bio precedes all others in the bios section. Brewer’s poems recount the tale of “Fat Boy,” a poignant and heartbreaking story of a lousy childhood. “Father of War, Mother of Sorrow,” the final poem, is especially affecting, not a narrative like the poems that precede it, but a tremendously successful small lyric that brings the Fat Boy saga to a powerful conclusion:
Fat Boy would be the holy child
He would be made of rubber
to throw at walls, bounce
He would be The Immense One Who Rolls.
The editors’ selections for this first issue reflect, happily, an eclectic and generous editorial stance, which allows for poems that demonstrate a range of poetry’s diverse possibilities, from small edgy narratives to more lyrically inclined efforts. I liked especially a poem by Michael McClane, “Carte-de-Visite #25: Outside Quincy, California,” which begins:
though not first death
not even the first by water
a current’s slow swallowing
with unhinged jaws
you are the first that is only body
There are some family story poems, a few meditations on nature’s glories and capriciousness, some American-traveler-abroad-observes-the-strange-world poems, and some that are less easy to categorize, like Nanette Rayman Rivera’s memorable poem “One Potato, Two,” which begins:
I have an eye inside me
that has never been blinded. To life!
For it is a potato, it grows
in job orchards where eyes are there to grow
another potato. Once
my eyes went straight for
the heart of you; I scooped you up
and the surrounding city was like backhoe.
There is certainly more than enough in this first issue Sugar House Review to make me wonder what sweet surprises await me in future issues.