Mead aims to make the magazine “small and explosive, writing we would want to read while waiting at the bar for our lover. Writing that is fermented, burnt, makes some kind of penance, offering, or sacrifice. Has breakage, but tooth. Writing with ropes, legs, residue. Writing that leaves ashes.” There are five sections—beer, wines, cocktails, pure spirits, and sparkling—in which the editor categorizes the pieces to be published. In this review, I choose to select my favorite for each of the drinks.
First and strong is the beers section. The poem “Bop for a Bespectacled Irishman” by Heather Foster integrates an Irish drinking song in with a narrative of a woman and an Irishman at a bar: “I’m smoking cloves, / Getting the greatest pickup line in history / From an Irishman. . . .”
Three magpies sit on a post beside our window.
A little Catholic sex is good.
Teach me to say the rosary over your bare
Body, each freckle a bead, a
Blessing. Take me home on the longest road. Kiss me
Top to bottom, making emeralds of every bone.
In wines, the poetry is much more delicate, and peaceful. In “The Mother of Beauty, Etc.” by Chelsea Rathburn, a couple soon to be married wanders out in the woods. The woods hold the bones of a creature—something the narrators says they may have missed on “any other walk, another day”: “It was a skull, a few feet from the body / of the deer. Love let us look in silence.” I can’t get over these great lines:
Up close, the ribcage like the chapel made
from a child’s upturned hands, open and calling.
Bones the color of an Easter egg steeped in tea.
No one had seen the corpse when it was whole
Drinking too many cocktails in a night might have you feeling lost, not sure where you are going. My favorite "cocktail" was Christine E. Salvatore’s “Destination.” (Although, Melissa Carroll’s “How to Hunt Down Your Orgasm” was a very close second.) Salvatore writes:
These days she can’t discern
if she is moving toward something
or away. Airline itineraries
don’t help: To go north, sometimes,
she must first travel west.
And all the time she feels lost
on arrival. When one home replaces
another, does the body ever find rest?
But the best lines are the last two: “How wonderful to be just leaving, / always about to arrive.”
In the pure spirits category, James May contributes the appropriate poem “Lessons.” But this poem is not about learning lessons from drinking. In this short poem, the narrator tells what happens when driving past a dead deer on the side of the road. I’ll give you a hint, it depends on who is driving the car—mom or dad.
In the sparkling section, I’m not sure what to do with Dan Kaufman’s “fishing,” but I like it. In it, there is a pile of guts, “left out like spilled glue.” And “he would play with the corpses / had the woman not told him / be gentle with puppies.”
I’m not sure I understand the purpose of the introductions for each section, written by the editor; instead of what is there, it’d be nice to see an editorial description of the element of the libation they are trying to portray with the poetry. For most poems, I was still able to see how they fit in. And all of the poetry is quality work. Pick your poison, but be sure to sample the whole lot. The poetry is served; bottoms up!