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Journal of New Jersey Poets - 2006

As Journal of New Jersey Poets quietly celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, something curious remains about the manner in which poets write about the Garden State. More than a locale but less than a state of mind, New Jersey is evinced in its most dignified sense: fond and often dryly ironical memories of family gatherings, wooded communities, and The Shore, The Shore, The Shore. (And, okay, a small dose of Coney Island.) The language is concrete, not something one gets lost in, but even a simple line, such as, “We aren’t a town and we like it this way,” can feel like a ground-level philosophy exercise. While the nostalgia is surely overdone, it does at least resist a reactionary air. Poets like Gilda Kreuter know too well that immigrants are the lifeblood of the old neighborhoods, and her poem, “Yesterdays Become Todays,” shows a continuity from past to present. Even in the nature pieces, there are surprises. Tina Kelley longs to hear the marbled murrelet in the woods of a national park, but the only birds are the familiar thrushes “like a grandmother’s hairnet dotted with beads, / all just barely touching over the forest, just within hello contact, / the way my sleeping foot brushes against my lover’s for reassurance, / a sparse, wide communion in acres of trees older than the printed word.” Journal of NJ Poets is similar: the reader searches hard for something new and unfamiliar, but is nevertheless reminded of the charm of the commonplace along the way.

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Review Posted on April 30, 2007
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