Excerpts from Jean Donnelly and John Olson could be used to sum up the style of work in the latest issue of Verse, a magazine that publishes chapbook-length submissions. Donnelly’s “Some Life” begins “read poems to know / how to live,” and midway through switches to the abstract
then empty everything
& fill it with this
night too has raccoons
in the alley with Alex
Earlier, in John Olson’s “So You Say” we read:
. . . I sometimes go crawling through words expecting to find an oasis, an exciting staircase, or a parable of sorcerers and collar studs. There is nothing like a pulse in a string of words to pump new life into your inflatable shrubbery.
Most readers will not find poems here that will teach them, as Donnelly writes, “how to live.” However, word-lovers crawling through Verse may find the energy-boosting equivalent of a trip to a contemporary art museum.
One flaw of this issue is that there’s no editor’s introduction or contributors’ notes. This is a shame, as it would be ideal to be able to read about its intriguing writers. Laurie Blauner is particularly noteworthy, as reading her poems feels like an immersion in the frightening, strange, gorgeous paintings of Bosch. Endi Bougue Hartigan’s echoing music is also addictive. Her “Begin at the slippage” begins “How many poppies? 10,000,000 poppies. How many poppies? Negative 10 poppies. / How many poppies? Hope in the shape of poppies. How many poppies? Estimated hope.”
G.C. Waldrep has great lines, such as “Porn travels through our physical bodies / At astonishing speeds, often approaching light.” Ezekiel Black contributes ten fine prose poems with titles like “Scrimshaw Acid Test,” “Cottonmouth Acid Test,” and “Hickory Cloth Acid Test.” And Tony Mancus writes shorter poetry, several of the pages of his portfolio containing only one line, such as “Feeling half right or more than just,” or “The same as any number of doors.”
With large distribution in the United States and United Kingdom, this journal helps writers publish larger pieces of work and get greater recognition. It’s a nice alternative to chapbook contests.