To start at the ending, I loved Melanie Lynn Moro-Huber’s straightforward essay “Checking the Pulse of Poetry Today,” in which Moro-Huber attempts to assess the value of poetry in contemporary culture. Beginning with a brief conversation with her husband, who sees little to no value in poetry, and continuing on with anyone who will listen, Moro-Huber receives a variety of responses from the owner of a music store, a fellow shopper at the local Walmart, MFA students, and academics. I loved the casual tone of Moro-Huber’s essay and the quirkiness of her approach, such as when she reiterates her husband’s response that “Poetry hits you in the nuts or it doesn’t.”
Judging by the contents of this issue, which spans nearly 200 pages and contains some 115 poems, poetry is clearly alive and well, appreciated, valued, and read. One can only imagine the high quality slush pile for each and every issue of the New York Quarterly.
One poem that definitely 'hit me in the nuts' was Ted Jonathan’s “Regina Einhorn”:
What planet she’s
She hunts alone.
more legs, casual hips,
jagged shag, pillow lips,
and a mannish
two finger pinch
on her Parliament.
Jonathan’s poem cruises from beginning to end. I loved its sustained cool and then its whammy punch at the end. Likewise, Dorianne Laux’s “How We Were: A Lullaby,” with heartbreaking lines like: “We were not unloved, though / no one could hide the way / quail tended their eggs, crowed / when they broke open, the children / paraded from bush to low bush, / a careful display.” Then there’s Tony Gloeggler’s “Mid Life Poetry Crises,” which begins: “Sometimes I get sick / of seeing myself / in my poems, my Brooklyn / accent slurring its way / through every line,” and continues “I want to write a sonnet / about a thin woman viewing / a Matisse print from thirteen / different angles. Write a haiku, / put a bumblebee in it, / the sound its wings make / brushing a fucking tulip.” Or Tom C. Hunley’s poem “Ism-Ism” which beautifully repeats itself as it exonerates the process of thinking: “You’re not sure whether or not to divorce your spouse, / so you go for a walk to think-think-think, because / you’re a thinker. A pair of bluebirds fly in unison, sing / in unison. They shoot straight up in unison.”
The list goes on and on. Can I quote them all? Of course not. But I have to mention Marge Piercy’s “When the Floor Dissolves,” Christopher Cunningham’s “A Time of Rest,” Jackie Sheeler’s “Gloria’s Stories,” Kim Bridgford’s “The Glass Slippers,” Scott Bailey’s “Hallows,” E.J. Miller Laino’s “Picture Us,” Stephen S. Mills’s “The Scientists Don’t Know…” Steve Henn’s “Talking at Spike’s About a Friend Gone Mad,” and Scott Weaver’s “Etymology.”
The New York Quarterly is a lovely collection of wonderful work. Poetry is clearly alive and well and thriving.