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Beloit Poetry Journal - Winter 2010/2011

  • Issue Number: Volume 61 Number 2
  • Published Date: Winter 2010/2011
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

The latest issue offers a high quality mix of poems exploring international themes and the idea of language. It announces the 18th annual Chad Walsh Poetry Prize winner, Charles Wyatt, for his poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wallace Stevens,” and includes an extensive review of the anthology Best American Poetry 2010.

“Why, Oh Why, the Doily?” by Janice N. Harrington, the longest and most striking poem in the issue, carries a theme of obsession, looking at the small, ordinary object of a doily from every angle. Harrington compares the intricate work of crocheting a doily to the art of writing:

The words fall
from her crochet hook, linked
into white lace, a white page.
Words tangle in stringy ink,
almost manic, a speaking in tongues,
looped, caught, tucked under a stitch
of breath. Memory rises as if
it were a doily of lace, beautifully edged,
holding what once mattered.

The poem changes form and tone in each section, shifting from free verse, as in the previous example, to biblical language in the sixth section with “Consider the doily,” to a mock dictionary definition in section 7:

Subject headings:
1) lacemaking 2) crochet—history 3) handiwork, women
(see also geometry)

Many other poems in the issue hold a fascination with words and the tongue, such as “Glossing Glossolalia” by Judy Little and “Self Possession” by Anne George Meek. Meek writes:

In Judea, the ancients hold the scrolls
near to themselves: within caverns, the papyri
roll out songs and laws, in fragments,
in tongues.
The body is finding
a library that the dead
have left behind.
The Dead
Sea divides
around a peninsula called
the tongue. It wears
a blue-white cloud
and a shroud of salt. I wear
my words

This issue is a great read for those who love poems with an international and intellectual bend, and that focus more on ideas than the ins and outs of everyday living.

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Review Posted on February 14, 2011

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