The magazine’s contest winner Dean Rader is joined by two dozen poets and a marvelous “Crossover” feature, “Book Sculptures” by Samantha Y. Huang, photo reproductions of exactly what the title of her work denotes, pages, spines, covers, words/text the stuff of three dimensional “ideas.” Poems in this issue, like Huang’s book sculptures, aim to reshape the way we think about spaces, places, and the capacity of language to capture unique angles.
Contest judge Kelly Cherry’s choice of “Hesiod in Oklahoma, 1934,” Dean Rader’s prize-winning poem is an excellent one. Rader’s poem is original, intellectually satisfying, sophisticated, and serious. I appreciate his attention to sound, his idiosyncratic lyricism, and his consistent and focused commitment to the poem’s vision. Rader never loses sight of the poem’s purpose and never releases his hold on a particular style of diction. Above all, the poem is incredibly satisfying rhythmically.
There is always the grass ahead of him on and on :
and behind him the grass the gouged skin they strip it from:
saltspiked and silty, endless and unending;
their labor the field’s body, the field’s body their stale host.
…furrowed and famished: find the poet swathed in dirt: inscrutable and silent:
I was moved by the emotional urgency in poems by Rebecca Warren (“The River in Rain”) and Robert Murdock (“Mucking It”), whose poem concludes: “Here’s an old entry / in the encyclopedia of what to do right now.” I kept coming back to this wonderful phrase again and again.
This issue also includes a number of fine works of art, although it is not always easy to tell from these mini reproductions what the originals are (drawings, paintings, etc.). I loved Nerida de Jong’s “Playing Cards,” two female figures (one older, one younger) in a slumber-party like image of great texture, and “Furrows and Clouds” by Martin Sturgess, a farm field and clouds that captures the way in which sky and earth can seem to merge in certain landscapes.