If poetry as a whole struggles to avoid becoming a minor art, prose poetry may be even more endangered; and what’s clear is that Sentence, like may contemporary poetry journals, sees its mission as much about preservation as promotion. With this comes anxiety: Contributing Editor Russell Edson declares himself “one of the established masters of the prose poem,” while Peter Johnson, also a contributing editor, sees the tradition of “publishing excellent prose poems” as dating back to the establishment of his own journal in the 1970’s. Clearly, biographical modesty has not made it to Sentence’s’s agenda. But while such arrogance generally confines itself to an enclosed academic establishment, I was happy to find many contributors living on wheat farms (Louis Borgeois), healing the ill (Cecil Helman) or posthumously honored with continued translations (Friedrich Hölderlin – 1770-1843).
Sentence contributors are at least not a hodgepodge of MFA students tinkering timidly with language. The only two Mercedes-Benz-driving poets I know of – Hoover and Maxine Chernoff – both make an appearance, along with experimental cheerleader Majorie Perloff, narrative guru James Tate, and Booker Prize-winner Margaret Atwood. Beyond this, David Lehman continues his mimetic exploration of single-author tropes in “Poem in the Manner of an Eric Ambler Spy Novel”; Joyelle McSweeney’s attempt to arrive at a description of the life of the contemporary writer through symbol leaves the reader choking in the dust; Christopher Merrill’s curiously worked alliterative experimentation explores allegorical possibilities. Biographical notes aside, there are already a half-dozen reasons to purchase this journal, and many more wait to be discovered inside. [www.firewheel-editions.org/]