Big names (Rae Armantrout, David Lehman, Alice Notley, Amy Gerstler, Sherman Alexie, Lyn Lifshin, Elaine Equi, Denise Levertov). Pretty big names (D.A. Powell, Jeanine Hall Gailey, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Matthew Thorburn, Amy Newman, Catherine Pierce, Adrian Blevins). Names to watch for (Kate Thorpe, Carly Sachs). And lots of ideas, big, pretty big, and worth listening for. This issue of Court Green offers exactly what we have come to expect of this provocative annual, including its entertaining Dossier, which this time focuses on the 1970’s.
I always love the work of Catherine Pierce and her poem, “Postcards from Her Alternative Lives,” in this issue reminds me why:
Each day the city unhinges its jaws and I climb inside.
Bright, or secret, or ghosted, towns fall into place
like the corner pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. All the sky
pieces look the same. I can’t fit the fragments
of clouds together.
This place is as I never left it: the neon sub shop
on the corner, the junior high. My house is in an aquarium
filled with tulips. My mouth is a tulip filled with dust.
Other standouts this issue in the general (not dossier) section include Chad Sweeney’s “The Novel,” a poem in 10 single line chapters; Leanne Averbach’s “Slim Evidence of Dubious Quality,” for its successful merging of the quotidian and the overtly political (though what isn’t political about the quotidian?); “This Dark Chocolate Cake’s Filled with Dark Chocolate Pudding” by Matthew Thorburn for the title alone (well, okay, also for the way in which he creates a sarcastic, edgy voice that I can actually care about: “I never know when to say hello / and that Frenchy kiss-kiss on the cheek thing / makes me awkwarder than ever.”); and Gillian McCain’s “Locate the Spot,” a prose poem with the brilliant opening line “Where would you like the apocalypse to take place?”
The Dossier on the 1970’s is as the journals’ Dossiers tend to be, vivid and entertaining. Subjects, themes, topics, imagery, preoccupations are predictable, if not necessarily so: images of popular culture, such as consumer brands and television shows, Patty Hearst, Vietnam, the cold war, popular music, Nixon and Watergate, celebrities, the coup on Chile (OK, less predictable), and changing sexual mores (OK, that’s every era, or is it?).
The late Joe Brainerd says it best in his poem “1970” (first published in 1971):
is a good year
if for no other reason
than just because
I’m tired of complaining.