“There’s nothing I won’t do for love,” writes Frank Giampreto in his poem “Self-Portrait in Mirror with Sinus Headache.” But, you’ll surprised at what comes next:
or for those little cookies half chocolate, half biscuit.
Where do I work?
Let’s just say many times each day the lead breaks free
from my mechanical pencil,
in the morning my cream of wheat thickens just so
and my newspaper slips easily from its body bag.
Cimarron Review is replete with poems like Giampreto’s, what I think of as “talking my life out poems,” or “my life out loud” poems. Sometimes such poems can seem ordinary, but I’m happy to say that, for the most part, these poems and stories in this issue, like Giampreto’s self-portrait, are surprising and pleasing. Those little cookies! Those little cookies linked to work!
Poems like these, with language that does not imagine itself to be poetic, does not deliberately reach for something beyond recognizable expression, must reach for something beyond images as familiar as the language if they are going to work. And many here do, including work by Elizabeth Langemak, Maya Jewell Zeller, Judith Sornberger, Melina Draper, Judith H. Montgomery, Lon Young, and Paul Bone, among others.
One of my favorite pieces in this issue is David Romtevdt’s essay “Wyoming’s Ambassador to Cuba.” As he notes with grace and wit, Romtevdt is not an official anything to Cuba, but he is his state’s poet laureate, and he took trips to Cuba in 2005 and 2008 as seriously as if that were a “real job.” I wish there more writing like this or that more of it were published, frankly, a blend of political and social commentary and insight, personal story, and strong, appealing prose in a voice that is credible, natural, and intelligent.
I’ll close with a note about a poem by Ecuadorian poet Sonia Manzano, ably translated by Alexis Levitin. I can’t remember the last time I saw a poem by a writer from Ecuador, if I ever have seen one in an English language journal, so I am happy to find this one here. Manzano’s poem is desperately important and urgent in a way that I find hard to describe, in a way that somehow brings the rest of the work in the issue into sharper focus for me, and reminds me why I read (and write), and why I should care about what other people have to say (and say for themselves). She concludes:
All this happened
just as I tell it
a woman’s word
a sacred word
a word utterly consecrated
to always being woman
without ceasing to be word
Just quoting these final lines does not do the poem justice, of course (in fact, it’s almost criminal not to include the whole piece here.) But, don’t just take my word for it. Do seek out Manzano’s work. Levitin’s translations of Ecuadorian poetry, Tapestry of the Sun, is due out any day (if has not already been published) from Coimbra Editions.