The issue contains both poems that address current events and poems with timeless themes. The best poems, as often happens, combine both the relevant and the timeless aspects. Bob Hicok, a professor at Virginia Tech, writes such poems, their main focus his silent student who became a killer: “[…]the code for language= / sight. Even now, I go back and listen / to what he was saying by not saying, I look / at my memory of the unsounding / […]but there’s nothing, no knob of sound” (“Mute”). After describing the particular murderer, he asks the general question that all witnesses ask: “why did this happen,” – a common enough question in the aftermath of any tragedy, but poignant nonetheless because no one has yet given a satisfactory answer. Susan Stewart’s response to another massacre – this one in the Amish community – is to use the victims’ names as a refrain throughout her poem.
I like how APR usually includes at least two poems of any particular poet. For example, readers receive a sneak peek of Adrienne Rich’s forthcoming book through four of her new poems, and readers can appreciate the sparse but spiritually-loaded language in the six poems of Mark Conway. Using quotes by Marcus Aurelius as a catalyst, Kathleen Graber writes five poems about how past events and our memories affect our present selves: “My cellar is full of boxes. / […] which I carried home, one by one, in a childhood I’ve abandoned. / The girl I was shakes her head like a disappointed ghost. / Didn’t she know the sea would always bring in more?” (“Book Four”). Atar Hadari’s three poems also explore the past’s influence on the present: “The world goes on in its tram wheels / and what you said falls out of train windows / like old school scarves” (“Anniversary”).
The tension between remembering the past and living in the present is also appears in this issue’s essays. Maxine Scates writes, “My animals ask me to live in the present, and that has not always been easy to do.” Other essay writers in this issue include John Felstiner, Clayton Eshleman, and Liesl Olson.
I highly recommend this issue, if for nothing listed above, then merely for Michael Ryan’s short but sincere and well-crafted blurb “A Memory of Stanley Kunitz,” or to learn that Marcel Proust did, in fact, write poems, and to read three of them in translation.