The cover of the 2010 poetry issue of Coe Review features a striking photo shot from inside a shed, peering out through two square openings onto lush green farm fields as far as the eye can see. It seems appropriate to the content within these pages, as each poem carves out its own unique opening through which to view the world.
The first two poems in the issue neatly echo the fields on the cover, as Judy Ireland's verse projects a distinct Midwestern voice, particularly her “My Sisters in Iowa,” an homage to these “female bodhisattvas of the corn.” From there, it's a leap into the fray, with poems by both current and former Coe students, other Midwestern poets, and a handful from further afield. According to its website, Coe Review bills itself as an experimental literary magazine, and there is certainly some evidence of that here. Jeff Alessandrelli's farcical prose poem “The Lives of Commerce (4)” tells the compelling tale of “a pair of lonely and crowded sexual markets.” Amanda Moore's “A Year Without Poetry” shows us just what might be in store for someone who abstains for a year: “And though sometimes my head ached, and I heard a sort of ringing now / and then, I had real conversations. I talked about the price of gas and / weather and how things were changing in the neighborhood.” Sounds painful, to say the least.
Some of the shortest poems call out the most fiercely, such as Joel Solonche's “Waterfall,” which begins, “The water keep leaving / the same suicide note behind.”
While I usually appreciate an editorial note at the start to help set the tone for an issue, the absence of one here was not so terribly missed, as the poems spoke well for themselves. There is quite a diversity of subject matter and style, thus keeping my interest piqued to the very last poem.