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Parnassus - 2009

  • Subtitle: Poetry in Review
  • Issue Number: Volume 31 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date: 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

Always as a big as a doorstop, and often heart-stopping-ly good, Parnassus is a monumental-sized read. This year, I find especially worthwhile an essay with photos, “Seven Rhymes,” by Peter McCary; a grouping of essays and poems all dealing with music (work by Daniel Albright, John Foy, Dian Blakely, and Mathew Gurrewitsch); a memoir by Joy Ladin (who has published work previously in Parnassus as Jay Ladin; the transition from one to the other is the subject of her essay); an essay on Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay by Devin Johnston; and a translation of the poem “Dunia” from the original Spanish by its author Otto-Raul González.

David Yezzi introduces a group of poems by Tom Disch, who committed suicide last year. Talky, pained poems from a manuscript Disch had begun titled, “Joycelin Shrager: The Death Bed Poems.” It’s not clear when the poems were written, but they have not been previously published. Yezzi found the manuscript while helping to clean out Disch’s apartment after his death and approached Parnassus about publishing them. Reading Yezzi’s introduction makes the poems all the more painful – and interesting. Here is an excerpt from “I’m Tired:”

i’m tired
don’t know if
i’m coming or going
No, that’s the one
thing I do know
i’m going i just don’t know where because
i stopped believing in heaven & hell
way back in 6th grade even tho for 3 weeks
I went to bed without any tv
or dessert which was my fathers’ way
of showing me what hell would be like

There is also a fine essay by Anna Journey, “Lost Vocabularies: On Contemporary Elegy,” written in a pleasing, approachable style. No jargon or insider speak. No attempts to show off and no gimmicks, just honest and insightful analysis with smart examples and the goal of enhancing our understanding of contemporary poetry. A kind of critical essay that is underrated, under-published, and monumentally important.

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Review Posted on November 16, 2009

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