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The Eleventh Muse - 2006

  • Published Date: 2006
  • Publication Cycle: Annual

A slim annual, more chapbookish in its perfect-bound style, the content of The Eleventh Muse is anything but slim. The back cover gently boasts: “55 poems; 44 poets; 23 states; 4 countries.” What matters most to me is 1. Give me one great poem, and that makes my reading worthwhile, and this publication was more than worth my while. My choice of, “You’ve got to hear this…” read-alouds included Leigh Ann Couch’s “Ciphers,” with lines like, “Run your hand along the vessel / of her. Go ahead, she’ll like it. You’ll find her / empty in all the right places, where she’s full, no doubt / it’s your doing.” Clay Matthews’ “Invitation to My Old, Dead Friend” put its arm around my shoulder and sat me down with the first stanza, “So when I say I was born in the back seat / of a Buick it’s the same as saying / please love me like an old gray boot.” The selections throughout are all keenly fresh, some offering pleasant surprises in what on the surface seem tried and tired style, as in Joanne Tangora’s personification of “April.” She gives a contemporized neurosis to the season that previous poets in their adoration of spring wouldn’t dare: “Enter, spring: late, predictably / skittish / fast-talking peddler / passing through / town, black-hooded birds / perched / on his wobbly cart.”

And there are laugh-aloud shockers, as in Robert Perchan’s “Mythic Instinct Afternoon” wherein the characters set out to “go and pick monkey” one afternoon. No, I’m not telling anymore; read it for yourself! For style and form, there are prose poems, varied stanza forms, space forms and some hard-driving rhythms that pound in your gut as you read to yourself, like Mary Biddinger’s “Snakeskin” and Carrie Jarrell’s “Plainsong.” The poems range from narrative to surreal, sometimes all in the same poem (“Before They Had Kids” by Susan Kay Anderson). I can’t say I enjoyed all the pieces, which is fine, since those would appeal to other readers who may not appreciate my picks, and reflects some good editorial negotiation. A slim volume indeed, but I like that better than some of the hefty annuals, since I not only am able (time-wise) to read the whole thing, but I have more inclination to return to it, reread and contemplate the works. [www.poetrywest.org] –Denise Hill

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Review Posted on June 30, 2006
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