It’s Rhino. I don’t know how long it’s been around, but it is one of the best annual collections of poetry you can find. Once you know the quality is there, what would you like me to tell you? It’s always good. If you are not familiar with it, you can count on it to enrich your day and entertain your evening. If you are familiar with it, you look forward to it. So, what did I do?
Ignore the awards; don’t notice the editors’ choices. Read all of the poems, make some notes; then compare your choices to the editors’. If Sean Howard’s “shadowgraph 44: observation appears as an event” isn’t for you, there’s more; turn the page. Later, consider why the editors gave it their first prize; how do their standards and yours coincide?
The work isn’t grouped by place or theme, but that’s not a problem. Finding the love poems (or the ones you feel are love poems) isn’t hard. Try Bill Christophersen’s “Angel Wings, Keyhole Limpet . . .” Here you can connect with the memories of your past loves and what you still fondly carry with you. There’s H? Nans?rh?n’s “Autumn Longing,” translated from the classical Chinese, carrying with it all of the flow and impact of traditional pieces, using images that still affect us today. In fact, all of the translations are artistically done, whether from the Serbian or the Portuguese, Chinese or Vietnamese. I have no doubt the translators have earned credit for their faithfulness to the original ideas, metrics, and flowing rhythms.
Some themes are, of course, more familiar than others, but pieces such as Richard Boada’s “Post-Soviet Recession” can be readily felt by anyone who has lived any history. I don’t know if the references are to Old Havana in Miami or old Habana, but I don’t care. The images bring up the smells and tastes of melon and lemon and more importantly, the feelings of the characters as they enter a new era of social freedom.
There are also some very pleasant narrative pieces. Eliot Khalil Wilson’s “Uncle Frank Meets the Artist Formerly Known as Prince” is as descriptive as I could ask for: “. . . and since you want to know, no purple anything—tight green pants, green gloves and an orange shirt—like Aquaman, I thought, Aquaman and Liza Minnelli.”
Marianne Villanueva’s “Eating” could take anyone back to their childhood: “I thought about my mother. About how much she loved me. She loves me, I whispered. She calls me the names of her favorite vegetables: sigadillas, kamatis.”
Many, such as Leigh Phillips’s “Country Grammar,” are a pleasing blend of narrative and poetry. The pacing and staccato imagery aren’t obvious in the paragraph form until you’re into the reading (aloud would be great!). All the pieces are enjoyable. Some are more whimsical than others. Try Arthur McMaster’s “Sunfish,” a visual poem; yes, it does look like a small sailing craft.
Do you like reflections? How about Christina Olson’s “Punk Rock Poem Grows Up”:
you think, this is the hard
business of living: the real
punk act of waking
each morning, every morning.
A word about the writers: well, how do I give you “a word” about 100+ talented people. They would make a great writers’ school (not that we need another one). This edition would make a great textbook for writers, beginning or advanced (did you ever notice that the best artists of any kind consider themselves either beginners or intermediate? To claim more is to claim hubris as your middle name.). Yes, I do asides. These writers are some of the best of our artists. All of the writers in Rhino 2012 are to be complimented for the quality of their work; the editors are to be complimented for bringing them to us. We can feel complimented for the opportunity to share their work.