Once yearly, Poetry eschews its commentary and letters sections to focus on its namesake; this year, the month chosen is June, and the result is not disappointing. Left to fend for itself, the poetry feels less intellectual, and more kinetic, than generally. Its strongest offerings are surrealist satires; David Biespel’s “Rag and Bone Man” struggles to fasten a trickster mask around a Literatus; Ralph Sneeden’s “Prayer as Bomb” provides vibrant satire in which explosives come to be seen as individualized elements of misplaced hope. Heidi Steidlmayer’s brief, deft “Scree” is worth citing in its entirety:
I have seen the arrested
scrub inform the crag with grief.
Lichens crust the rocks with red.
Thorns punctuate a leaf.
Sorrow is not a desert
where one endures the other –
but footing lost and halting
step. And then another.
The darkest clouds loom not over in the poetry itself, but the marginalia: of the 12 advertisements in the back of Poetry, 6 are devoted to Poetry-related events, prizes, products or solicitations. Though a 100-million dollar foundation may do as it pleases, it’s disappointing that it feels the necessity of advertising, among other things, a submissions call for letters. If one looks to Poetry for some measure of guidance in this ever-dissipating literary world – a recourse that, considering this journal’s unparalleled quality and consistency, would not be rash – one might reach the uncomfortable conclusion that while poetic production remains vigorous, its dialogue may have, after years favoring one-sided, academically-centered arrogance, been finally left to fend for itself.