The cover of Poet Lore is wondrous, a photograph of ice skaters posing for the camera on Mirror Lake in Yosemite in 1911. The Editor’s Page describes the photo as an appropriate introduction to the issue’s work with its—unanticipated—focus on winter as metaphor. The photo’s technical and artistic qualities are, to my mind, the finest metaphor for poetry, or, perhaps, an apt metaphor for fine poetry—making the real seem both more and less real than seemed possible, drawing what is far-off into close view and moving what is right in front of us into the background. The photo is clear in its misty-ness and misty in its clarity, like much of the poetry in this issue.
Plenty of familiar names here, Ed Ochester, Doug Ramspeck, Gary Fincke, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Arthur Vogelsang, and Virgil Suarez. And plenty of voices from farther in the background who deserve to come more directly into view: Elizabeth Oness (“Winter Solstice”: “In another life I would have sworn / the earth was flat”); Kate Hanson Foster (“Dear Lowell”: “I could forget everything”); Marcela Sulak (“Allison Took the Facebook Quiz, ‘What Dictator Are You?’ And the Result was Mussolini”); and Christine Tierney (“16 Things You Should Know About the Fort”: “(1) Everything planted near the fort either died or disappeared.”), among many others.
I liked very much David Frye’s translation of “A Cousin” by Cuban poet Nancy Morejón, (though I would have liked to have seen the original):
The street has a name, an obscure name, unimportant,
like its own yawning mouth,
mature, wide open, toothless.
At its end shines no light but the light cast by the dark skin
of my cousin Fernando.
Dennis Nurske introduces the work of Innuit poet dg nanouk okpik, an Alaskan native who now lives in New Mexico. Nurske describes her work as exhibiting “complexity of time”; “poised between the heritage of tribal cultures of the far North and the edge of the contemporary”; and “dazzingly original.” Okpik’s work is, I agree, extremely appealing on many levels, with some poems challenging conventional notions of what it means to make a poem, and others (like the one quoted below) are more expected, but no less engaging. Here are excerpts from “Amulet-for-the-Spirits-Around-the Bend”:
A view from two sides of Polaris, it is said:
The living await the destined relatives’ return.
With a seal-skin satchel,
birch bark and pencil,
wolf girl rewrites the tundra.
An essay by Maryhelen Snyder on Emily Dickinson (now enjoying—or is it still enjoying?—much attention, given new works of biography and criticism about her) and a number of book reviews, round out the issue. Merrill Leffler reviews a translation of work by Israeli poet Dahlia Ravikovitch (who died in 2005), Hovering at Low Altitude. I am pleased to see that, once again, Poet Lore is doing its part to introduce us to writers we might not otherwise have a chance to get to know.