After winning a year’s subscription during last year’s National Poetry Day, I discovered the joy of the Crab Creek Review. What had drawn me into past issues was the range of voices, both from experienced writers and fresh, emerging writers. There has always been a certain charm to the pieces selected, whether their tone leans towards the more serious or whimsical, and this issue is no exception.
The biggest standout in the second issue for 2010 is the section entitled Beyond Ekphrasis: Poems of the Musical, Mathematical, and Visual in which Crab Creek Review’s first guest editor Susan Rich pulled from “over fifteen hundred poems submitted by more than four hundred poets from three different continents,” “work inspired by photography, sculpture, music, film and even a mathematical equation.” One of the exceptional pieces inspired by art in this section is a poem called “The Plague Doctor” by Peter Pereira based on a 1656 engraving entitled “Doktor Schabel von Rom” by Paul Fürst. The engraving is included above the poem and lends itself to the poem’s dark and mystical force. The poem begins:
Brow shadowed by a black
wide-brimmed hat, he swings
his wooden cane to part the swarm
of flies crawling your motionless body,
prods you with the cane’s tip
to measure your response.
The word choice in the poem is exquisitely brutal, offering images of “erupting pustules”, “flea-infested straw”, “pungence repelling pungence,” and the pitch-perfect ending leaves an enduring image of:
Its two oval sockets lensed in red glass
as if to warn you—how scavenger birds
always begin with the eyes.
Other poems that are worthy of mention within the section on ekphrasis are “Prelude” by Valerie Nieman, based on a photograph of Rosa Parks getting her fingerprints taken, and a heart-rending look at youth and strength in “Patrick Swayze” by Casey Fuller, highlighting the promise of Hollywood vigor, about the actor, who unfortunately fell victim to cancer last year.
For those that are animal aficionados, there seems to be a strong motif of animals throughout many of this issue’s poems. One particularly enjoyable poem, although perhaps light in its content, is Anita K. Boyle’s “Time with Cats,” which is a very charming piece, and echoes the epigraph from Colette, “Time with cats is never wasted,” in its ending:
The cats have fallen asleep.
One is upside down.
It begins to purr.
This is a day not wasted.
Another enjoyable piece is “My Pet Chicken” by James Bertolino, in which there is a recall of having a pet chicken killed because of fencing that was:
to keep my chicken in, but not
strong enough to keep the neighbor’s
German Shepherd from knocking
The reflection in the ending of this carefully constructed piece is beautifully done:
I hadn’t built a better pen for my bird,
I didn’t blame that dog, and decided
to try pigeons next. I knew they could fly
away when molested.
There is no lack of truly well-constructed poetry within this issue, and as well the fiction is strong, especially Midge Raymond’s “Two Lies and a Truth,” which plays off of the game of telling someone two lies and one truth, then guessing which is which, and speaks deeply to the nature of friendship and what truth really entails.
Overall, this issue of Crab Creek Review is successful in capturing your attention, interest, and imagination, and is a worthy addition to anyone’s reading schedule.