The rawness, dissonance and clamor of contemporary American urban life are present in several fine poems in the latest issue of Hiram Poetry Review.
City life can be mysterious and impenetrable, as it is in “Minor Prophet” by Graham Hillard. The poem’s speaker encounters a homeless man bearing a revelation scribbled on a scrap of paper. “I dreamed this and wrote it down, / says the crazy vet,” who wants Hilliard to decipher the message:
Do you know it?
His hands are shaking.
Do you know it?
I don’t. His revelation
has been specific. I leave him
in crumbling penitence. The city beyond
is Nineveh. Somewhere
he is carrying out his orders.
The city can unfold its layers more slowly, as it does in Jim Daniels’s expansive account of a trip to the store for milk in “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” which begins:
Sunday after dinner I walk out front
to a trumpet player on the roof
of the rotting apartments across the street.
He blows like he’s calling on the funky troops
of section 8 housing to rise up and admire
his angelic self. In the rain, I decide
I have a soul again. . . .
Or it can turn around and bite you, as it does in Jason Tandon’s tight twenty lines on chain-reaction road rage, ironically titled “Sermon on the Mount.” After a near-miss with a pedestrian, the poem’s speaker has lost himself in a fantasy of anger and forgiveness until, the speaker says, “I awoke to a blare of horns. / The driver behind me / threw up her hands / and asked if I was fucking retarded.”
Hiram Poetry Review, which has been around almost a half century, finds fresh, accessible, well-crafted work to publish. Other notable poems in this issue come from Nathan E. White, John Paul O’Connor, Michael Jemal, Tim Leach, Daniel John, David Rogers, Justin Hamm, Rawdon Tomlinson, and Edward Butscher.
Gabriele Zuokaite, a high school senior from Lithuania, and Douglas Collura offer gender-balanced and riotous takes on sex, while former Review editor David Fratus contributes a perfect cat poem, “Winter mornings, early.”
The only downer in this issue was the high incidence of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors in the back-section book reviews. In particular, William Johnson’s review of Jack Gilbert’s Collected Poems was seriously marred and deserved more care.