Court Green number four is political. Each issue of this all-poetry magazine is divided into a “Poems” section, featuring poems on any subject, and a “Dossier” section, dealing with a single theme. It’s the best of both worlds, combining the freedom of a traditional format with the focus of the themed issue.
Both sections offer sensational poetry. Being a biased Arkansan, my favorite poem of the first section is Jo McDougall’s “The One Horse Store,” about two teenagers who return from the store “hoping to God we smelled of booze and cigarettes.”
Predictably, war is a big topic in the Dossier section. In Peter J. Grieco’s poem, “Baghdad Bound,” a soldier (real or imaginary, I’m not sure) writes about his initial trip to a military base in Baghdad. Whether because of naiveté or from a desire not to upset his family, “Andy” writes as if he’s on an odd vacation: “. . . If this were regular commercial air travel,” he says, “I would probably be writing a long letter / to Customer Service . . .” The violence and horror of war are foreshadowed in details like “the roar and stench of massive generators,” and I am left with a heartbreaking sense of relief that, unlike the soldier, I will not be leaving this “weird, weird place” to enter the infinitely weirder and more horrible world of war.
This poem is balanced by Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Letters My Prez Is Not Sending,” a collection of imaginary letters to people in the Middle East. In these fragments, Nye artfully leaves the details to our imagination. “Dear Rafik,” she writes, “Sorry about that soccer game you won’t be attending since you now have no…”
The Dossier is not limited to the Iraq War. Also notable are Kurt Brown’s terrifying “Global Warming” and Terrance Hayes’s “Our Best Patton Performer,” which is delightfully creepy. Though I enjoyed it immensely, I’m not sure why Eve Packer’s poem, “Express DVD Video Palace/Sex Sex Sex,” is in this section, but I guess an argument could be made that any poem containing the term “Ass-A-Thon” is inherently political.