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West Branch - Fall/Winter 2010

  • Issue Number: Number 67
  • Published Date: Fall/Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

A terrific issue! Strong, memorable poems, including translations from the Italian by Martha Cooley and Antonio Romani of the work of Gianpiero Neri; a great essay by Katie Ford “Writing About the City: New Orleans, Destruction, and the Duty of the Poet”; a satisfying story by Urban Waite, “No One Heard a Thing in the Night the Chicken Died”; thoughtful book reviews; and Garth Greenwell’s “To a Green Thought” essay, this issue’s “Marginalia,” one of the journal’s most original and appealing features, which focuses this time on recordings of poems.

I appreciate especially this magazine’s consistent selection of texts that are deftly and vividly composed, with surprising, pleasing images and connections, such as Mark Wagenaar’s “Moth Hour Gospel”:

You open the History of Longing as waiters shake open
white tablecloths in the restaurant across
the street, one blooming after another
lie and out-of-sync choir line
of ghosts…

Prose poems by Nick Ripatrazone are a little off-beat and a lot satisfying, including “Barn: Gunn”:

Retired from Forest Service in 1983 after 32 years, most spent in towers. Caught sight of the May 1978 blaze that sucked the southern slope of Hacklebarney. Stored two tractors in the barn. Both bought at estate sales. Went to the estate sales with the same goal: to find newspaper clippings of college basketball games.

Lee Stern’s “A Little Village” strikes just the right balance between earnestness, muted sarcasm, and innocence:

It surprised me to hear you say that I lived in a little village.
I always thought everybody else lived in a little village.
…And I wouldn’t be surprised to hear them say
that they wanted to go to an even larger village.
…Where the moon goes when it asks you what you did with its plate.

I loved Michael Bazzett’s “Things No One Expected To Be True until Viewing the Film”:

The imaginary cities of my youth
actually exist.
It turns out a handful
were painstakingly crafted in miniature
by a loose collection of savants in the attics of Vienna.

It turns out the imaginary literary journal of my middle years actually exists! It’s West Branch. Number 67 has a fabulous cover (with an image by Kevin Sloan); impressive poetry; satisfying prose; reviews worth reading seriously, not skimming; and this summary of its value from poet Michael Bazzett’s poem “Sentence”: “Life is uttered.” Unutterably fine.
[bucknell.edu/westbranch]

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Review Posted on March 14, 2011
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