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Field - Spring 2009

  • Issue Number: Number 80
  • Published Date: Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

There are stars aplenty in this issue devoted entirely to poetry and poetics: D. Nurske, Kevin Prufer, David Wagoner, Elton Glaser, Thomas Lux, G.C. Waldrep, Bruce Weigl, David St. John, Carl Phillips, Laura Kasischke, Franz Wright, Eric Pankey, David Hernandez, Jean Valentine, Alice Friman, Timothy Liu, Charles Wright, among others. And their work is, well, stellar. But there are equally bright and lesser-known voices on the horizon, too (many also quite accomplished and widely published), and I’d like to spotlight their contributions to this fine issue, beginning with moonlight and Melissa Kwasny’s prose poem “The City of Many Lovers.” “Moon that strikes on the downbeat,” she writes, and its Kwasny’s rhythms that are, indeed, most striking: “Lunedi. Martedi. Mercoldi. It’s moon-day.” And so she begins a poetic narrative that manages to tell a large story that unfolds in a small moment in one short lyric paragraph; it’s a perfect little model of prose poetry.

Amit Majmudar’s couplets in “Evangelical Fugue” couldn’t be more different in tone, an edgy, witty approach (“The business of religion is not-for-prophet.”). Yet Majmudar, too, knows how to make terse verse work to tell a big story as it can be distilled in a focused moment: “Think of business as a semidivine religion. / We demi-goddemagogues wine and dine religion.”

Two poems by Greg Wrenn also tell their small/large stories with large/small images and focus. A prose poem, “Monogamy,” carries a secondary title “[Ninth Labor],” followed by “Mindfulness,” with the secondary title “[Fourth Labor],” which made me curious about the larger series of which they must be part. Both are poems that explore the body’s relationship to the space/place around it and to the language that embodies that space. Wrenn has an unusual voice, almost mysterious: “Join me here, / in the untherapeutic / everywhere, and see the futility / of revision, self-promotion.”

And while he is certainly considered a star in his own country, Polish poet Tadeuz Rozewicz will find a bright light shining on his work soon in English, too, as translator Joanna Trzeciak is preparing a collection of his work for a mainstream American press. One of the poems, beautifully translated, appears here: “Homework Assignment on the Subject of Angels” (“Fallen / angels // look like flakes of soot / abacuses / cabbage leaves / stuffed with black rice / hail / painted red / blue flames / with yellow tongues”).

There are certainly more new stars in this issue, but no more room to highlight them. I’ll let one of them, Jennifer Atkinson, help us conclude with a line from her poem “Canticle of the Night Path”: “I want whatever happens after that,” which is how this issue will make a reader feel about poetry, poetics, and Field.
[www.oberlin.edu/ocpress]

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Review Posted on July 19, 2009
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