The mission and vision of Cruel Garters is “to publish both well-established and newer voices in a small, stripped-down publication that minimizes literary trappings and focuses on the work itself.” They state they prefer “the short, lyrical, and odd but are most interested in work with its own voice and aesthetic.”
The inaugural issue of Cruel Garters features six poems by six poets. The journal is indeed a very stripped-down publication; the inside of both cover pages are used as space for poems. The aesthetic continues with the use of a typewriter-esque font on quality linen paper and absolutely no distractions from the works themselves. There is no index, and there are no page numbers: just poetry.
In “King Hoon’s Spectacular Speech” by Jennifer L. Knox, the reader is automatically thrown into a stream of consciousness and can only become curious about what has or is transpiring. The first sentence simply states, “I feel lack mostly . . .” Knox does not just leave the reader with the knowledge of lacking something; she is successful in using the poem as a whole to make the reader truly feel the “lack” that the narrator feels. Knox inserts a string of cliché questions that make the reader aware that there is something that is desired, that more should be said or is wanting to be said but, cannot be:
I feel lack mostly . . . hunger and some
hmm-ing. Example: I could eat
a pine cone about now. “How much
is too much?” Who cares. “How much
is not enough?” That’s way more
important: life and death, right? . . .
On a side note, the poem also mentions William Shatner and hard-boiled eggs in the same sentence. It is worth reading, even if just to see how those concepts are meshed together.
For any Game of Thrones fans, the poem “It’s Not TV” by Jerome Sala will satisfy. The poem focuses on the interactions between Queen Khalisi and a witch, as well as tackling what makes a TV show different from a book. Throughout the poem, excerpts of dialogue between Khalisi and the witch from Game of Thrones are carefully placed along with narrative lines. The dialogue functions as a way to pull the reader directly into the action as a book might: “The witch who betrayed her is tied to the pyre too. / She says: “I won’t scream.” Khalisi: ‘Yes you will. / But I don’t want your screams, just your life.’”
The narrative role in this poem brings the action down and pulls the readers out of the direct action; it makes them audience members, like they are watching a TV show:
When the branches have burned
and all the agonizing screams have been screamed
Khalisi is still kneeling there, unharmed, naked
except for some ashes where her clothes have burned off.
For an inaugural issue, Cruel Garters looks to be on the right path to achieving its goals. It seems like as soon as you pick up Cruel Garters and start reading it, it is finished. However, keeping in mind that the aim is for each poem in the journal to get undivided attention from the reader, it is all right that it is so small.