Redheaded Stepchild, an exclusively poetry magazine, likes to play with the other magazine’s unused toys. “We know that a lot of kickass poetry gets rejected,” say the editors, “and we thought it would be fun to publish only previously rejected poems. We like rejects.” But that being said, poems aren’t necessarily rejected because of quality but rather because of fit for the particular magazine. Looking through the bios of this issue, it’s obvious that these writers are not lacking in publications.
Glenn Cassidy’s “In Men We Trust” starts with a quote from John Adams: “A government of laws and not of men.” Throughout the poem, he brings up parts of everyday life that he trusts, parts of life that most of the time we don’t think to distrust:
I trust that strangers approaching
on the sidewalk will walk past and not attack,
trust that drivers will stop at the red light
as I pass through on green.
I trust that the waitress has not spit on my pizza,
that the bridge’s steel girders aren’t rusted
and flaking away like dandruff.
But as the poem comes to a close, it is a clear that the poem is actually more about trusting the government and the men in charge: “but to trust the human flaws of senators, governors, / and presidents that they lie within tolerance of gaps in the law.”
In a night during hurricane Irene, after too much rum and too much bad news (a friend’s newborn baby is struggling to survive at a birth weight of three pounds), “You want your father who is not here.” Jeanann Verlee’s poem “Home,” leaves you aching. Written in second person, you feel drawn to the main character, feels what she feels, as
. . . You want your dead heart to be a hummingbird.
Or jet fuel. You want a roadmap. You want your father. You want
to kiss the lips of a bridge. You want saltines smeared with mustard,
like mama used to pack in your Muppets lunchbox . . .
In, “Eliza Without the Witch,” Erin Lyndal Martin uses repetition of words such as “wind,” “whiskey,” “hag,” “roadmap,” and “gingerbread” throughout the lines to build her poem. With each repetition, she attempts to use the word in a new and surprising way. The best constructed images come from her use with the word “bones”: “. . . Bones don’t wrinkle / underwater, they break but wetter than before” and
Eliza magics me into given rain. We’ve found
bones in one another. The church disappears
into the roadmap. Trees wrinkle the horizon,
the windshield appears when it reveals haggard limbs.
Bones don’t twinkle, they merely rattle within hags
like teeth inside a jar. . . .
While I’ll admit I didn’t enjoy every poem in this issue, I’d say the majority of them are worth the read.