The name Rattle for a poetry journal interests me in the way that names of things often do. There is the death rattle, a baby’s rattle, rattlesnakes. There are people’s minds rattling off the hinges, people’s cages being rattled, and people rattling their own cages or those of others. It could be said that the best poetry rattles our nerves. A little bit of all of this is represented in this issue of Rattle, the death rattle perhaps more than the rest. If I had to pick one poem to represent the issue it would be Rohan Chhetri’s “Not the Exception.” The narrator appears to recently have come close to death and speaks of it in matter-of-fact yet insightful ways. The final lines struck me as boldest:
We think death is
Aberration. Thousand automobiles out to run you
Down every morning. The precision of the machinery
Outside us. The survival of the everyday is a constant
Accident from which we will recover in death.
The word death occurs seven times in that poem. The words death, dead, dying, die, dies, or died occur 22 times in the first 50 pages of this issue. The words kill or killed occur three times. Then there are all the poems where these words don’t actually appear in print, but lurk instead between the lines. The words life, alive, live, or living only appear 10 times. I stopped counting these words after 50 pages because I was already behind deadline on this review, but I think we all know what this means. The death rattle is loud in our ears. Life is a less literal concept, less final, and so we hesitate to mention it in such direct ways.
The tribute this month is to law enforcement poets, many of whom live with death or its possibility every day of their working lives. There are police officers, military police, harbor patrol officers, private eyes, railroad police, and customs officials. What I gather from this is that anyone you see in your everyday life could be a secret poet.
There are a lot of poems in this issue. I read them all. Some are short, only a few lines, and others quite lengthy. I made a list of my favorites. That list grew too long and so I won’t mention it here. Let’s just say that Chhetri’s “Not the Exception” was not the exception (ugh, sorry for that). But things such as favorite poems are so subjective. I’d rather you seek the issue out and discover your own favorites. Think of this review as my encouragement of you in that endeavor.