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Beloit Poetry Journal - Fall 2008

  • Issue Number: Volume 59 Number 1
  • Published Date: Fall 2008
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

What I liked best about this issue of BPJ is the dissonance – the clash of tones, styles, voices, and intentions. “During the processing of new acquisitions / evidence of cogitation must be monitored” writes Paul Lisson in a tightly composed prose poem, “Cartesian Melody,” excerpted from “the Perfect aRchive.” “A little celebration: / it is six a.m. and I am not sick.” writes Muriel Nelson in “For the Night People.” “My day as a tragedy / brand manager: the red- / on-void block letter logo / for Backwater Black Widow” begins “If It Bleeds, It Leads,” by Steven D. Schroeder. In some ways, it almost seems as if the poems in this issue belong in 17 different journals (that’s the number of poets who appear here), but together they work to create a marvelous compendium of mismatched styles and tones that somehow coalesce into a unified whole. These poems are some of the most original I’ve read lately. I never had the impression I was reading a poem I’d seen a version of dozens of times before. I was always a little surprised, taken aback, stunned into paying better attention. What more can we hope for from poetry?

I liked Joshua Dolezal’s refusal to end his poem “Little Damascus” (“something knows when you are // when you don’t”), and Paul Lisson’s elaboration on the meaning of information (“The relationship of data. The relationship between entities. What was created was received. That which was received was create”), and Margaret Aho’s risky games with spacing and punctuation, which might seem like a gimmick, but works here because she can support her inventiveness with the heft and determination of a good idea in two extraordinary poems, “geo” and “to be flanking the petiole to be.” And happily, happily, happily this issue’s reviews focus solely on the work of the late (and truly great) Mahmoud Darwish and his exquisite translator and marvelous poet in his own right, Fady Joudah, both of whose work deserves our attention, respect, and serious consideration.

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Review Posted on October 20, 2008

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