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Rhino - 2009

  • Published Date: 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Annual

An especially appealing issue, often playful but not merely for the sake of fun; attuned to poetry lovers’ interest in language, but not merely to invent or experiment; inventive, but not merely to impress; clever, but not merely to show off; serious, but not merely gloomy or solemn; well crafted, but not stodgy or overly formal; surprising, but not merely startling or crass or shocking.

A good mix of poems in verse and prose poems; translations from Hebrew, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Latvian, and Lithuanian; free verse and formal selections; and a diverse collection of tones and vocabularies and diction.

The whole of the issue is worthwhile, but standouts for me include Kristen Markowski’s prose poem, “The Choice of Words,” after an essay of the same name in Vogue’s Book of Etiquette (1948):

‘Couch’ should not be used instead of ‘sofa.’ ‘Don’t have’ should not be used instead of ‘haven’t,’ or even ‘haven’t got.’ ‘You don’t have a couch’ is a violation of the English language. Even ‘don’t have’ should not be used instead of ‘haven’t.’ ‘Gorgeous’ should not be used instead of ‘beautiful’ or ‘magnificent’ or ‘attractive.’ You don’t have a ‘gorgeous couch,’ you have a ‘beautiful sofa.’

The piece concludes: “You have described the language.”

Another highlight is “Love’s Variety” by Kim Andrews, which begins:

a smooth Noblesse, the way
you keep saying that every time you write
about fruit
you mean father
bowl of father: skin of father
the nectarine’s pale flesh, changeling peel
the matte of it
a bunch of father: father tree

Perhaps my own recent hospital stay informs my choice of Saara Myrene Raappana’s “72-Hour Observation, Journal for Dr. Saper,” as another standout, but with so many poems about illness and hospitals, I find this to be one of the most impressive I’ve come across recently:

Saturday Night
In my dream, you drifted in on a flashlight beam
that assailed my unlit hospital room.
Pulling the incisors from my mouth,
you clicked them together in your palm
while I watched, inert,
as a fish regards the dry world from its bowl.
Sunday Night
Nurses talk low, as if we shouldn’t hear,
about electric bills and coupons for beans:
the small things that burrow up to make the world.
I’m afraid.

Another highlight: Bryon A. Kanoti’s “Tyrannosaurus X-Ray”:

The city is gone home and ghosted – some weather [salted along the lake’s
Misshapen danger and degree] insists the birds
[all their hollow cells spectacular for other cells] shelter outside the wordiness

Kanoti’s work is characteristic of many of the poems in Rhino in which punctuation plays an inventive role to great effect.

I was happily introduced to the work of Lithuanian poet Sonata Paliulyte, whose poem “Silence” is wonderfully translated by Irena Praitis (“I wanted / just one word – / I didn’t have one / nor a short prayer. / Sometimes you’re here, / then you’re a vanishing shadow / splitting our life boat / there across the sea / only sand and blue, / and your blame); and to Latvian poet, Peters Bruveris, whose “One-Liners,” beautifully translated by Inara Cedrins consists of single lines separated by “x” (“voice of the axe in the forest of souls,” “in a seven-story building the dead climb to the eighth floor”); and to the work of Alex Epstein, whose prose poem “Beyond the Wall” is ably translated from the Hebrew by Becka Mara McKay (“In old history books you’ll find the wall was built many years ago, to separate us from the madmen who stood there painting graffiti in the air…Of course, those who claim that the wall has only one side abuse logic and law”).

Megan M. Garr’s “Document #1” sums up the issue’s overall impact in her closing lines:

Was there paint or
the incredible, tea, homes, elk, a lake,
some past cast for study, was there ice, a play?
Was it conserved? and then? Histories, books of them.
Everything. Everything.

[www.rhinopoetry.org]

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Review Posted on June 14, 2010
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