This journal publishes work that “pays attention to formal requirements.” That, of course, means rhyme: “Though public / private lives draw swarms of pests, / Xeroxoxymorons are the irksomest” (“Doppelganger” by Alfred Corn) and “After the service, when the neighbors left, / breathing their last condolences like prayers, / it startled him that he was not bereft” (“Idle Comments” by Rhina Espaillat); established forms, most notably the sonnet, represented here by numerous contributors; invented forms, like a “villanette” from Anna Evans; and meter, what the editor refers to as syllable stressed verse – many types of formal strictures and discipline prevail in this issue. The poets represented here are not novices either to poetry or to “traditional” forms: Alfred Corn, Philip Dacey, Molly Peacock, Rachel Hadas, Richard Wilbur, W.D. Snodgrass, X. J. Kennedy, among others, and their work is polished, often exemplary.
There is a good deal of truly exceptional work in The Raintown Review, the tendency, sustained throughout the issue, to see form as an excuse for a sort of bawdiness aside. I particularly liked Samuel Maio’s sonnet, “The Spokesperson for His Generation”; several poems by Rachel Hadas, especially her sonnet, “The Morning After Christmas”; and poems by W. D. Snodgrass, whose work is as taut, yet tender as ever. The poems in The Raintown Review remind us that language is malleable and flexible. In the right hands, “formal requirements” can be sobering, delightful, and unpredictable.