Issue #3 of the Agriculture Reader has a nice feel to it, literally. For one thing there’s something particularly satisfying about the paper it is printed on; it somehow feels thin without seeming fragile; somehow gives the entire issue a nice flexibility, somehow lends itself to a comfortable back pocket curl. Coming in at 103 pages, if you count the three final lined pages tagged on for taking “notes,” this issue is the perfect size for summer reading, for savoring, for holding up in a sun shielding position while swinging to and fro on a hammock.
Joey Parlett’s interspersed doodles and drawings, reminiscent of an underground comic book or the hypnotic, meandering, acid induced drawings that embellish many LP covers, add to the overall hip and casual nature of the magazine. It’s a playful magazine which seems to be willing to publish poetry of both a high and low nature, “serious” poetry and poetry which is willing to take a slant-eyed view of the medium of poetry itself.
Agriculture Reader is all poetry; poetry written in thin narrow lines; poetry made up of a single seven word sentence; poetry written in tidy stanzas; poetry that swings in seemingly random placement from left to right across the page. I was sometimes smitten, sometimes disappointed, sometimes simply bewildered. All the same, I applaud Agriculture Reader for welcoming the experimental, for publishing the new and the already established.
A particular feature of this issue is a mid magazine series of twelve poems by established “New York School” poet Tony Towle. Preceded by Mike McDonough's well rendered introduction, Towle’s poems were a particular delight. I especially loved “Typing Test (2 Minutes),” “Addenda,” and “Macy’s,” which includes these beautiful concluding lines:
There are times when the rumbling subway
zeroes in for a serious conclusion,
and times when 16th-century dandyism of language
is the most important thing, my little pancake,
though real people walk in the cold air and birds fly in it.
Other highlights for me included Christian Barter’s “John and Jackie Kennedy on a Boat Deck, 1960,” which asks “the old / grade-school question” of whether wealth and beauty and privilege really make us happier people. I also loved the beautiful honesty in Rebecca Wolff’s poem “My Daughter,” the understated tone of irony in Eileen Myles’s prose poem “Little Brown,” and Sharon Mesmer’s poem “Veloce,” which concludes with these stunning lines:
If you wander lonely as a cloud,
if you welcome the thick anonymity
that passing time cannot change,
on forgotten grace you’ll fly.
Just remember to pack the snacks and sanitary napkins,
secure the tadpoles with leftover baloney,
beware the beefeaters in culottes.
Don’t let your accoutrements betray you.