If poetry is the food of love, then Spinning Jenny is a five-star restaurant. Whether you’re in the mood for sweet or savory, their menu has it all. This modern delicacy features eighty-plus pages of delicious poems, with a center insert of eight pieces of unconventional art. It’s straightforward. You open Spinning Jenny up. You flip through the first few pages of copyright and staff information, and voila! One page lists the titles of the poems. The rest is love. Or food. Something like that.
As I mentioned, the layout is plain and simple. I love it. No longwinded editor’s letters, no explanations. If you don’t already know what a spinning jenny is, I’ll tell you. It’s a multi-spool spinning wheel, which revolutionized the craft of spinning yarn, allowing workers to work on several spools of yarns at once. What Spinning Jenny has done is reinvented the literary machine. A multi-poem magazine, readers can view several awesome, fresh, unique poems at once. Long, short, traditional, experimental – choose your own gourmet combination platter.
Let’s flip to a poem titled “Seldom Gold” by John Harper. It’s a melancholy piece about feeling small in a big world. It’s a personal poem, perhaps about some private sadness, but it relates to the bigger picture, too. In a world full of tragedies, it’s easy to lose sight of why we’re here and what we can do to make a difference. I’m only one person, we think. Harper says, “What can I declare – seldom, seldom / I take an action,” – a feeling of hopelessness. Twice he says “that symbol coming down the road…I don’t know what that means,” – confusion. Lastly, Harper ends this sad mystery with “I guess I am on my head on my hands, / my burnt, burnt hands / aching for warmth.” Aren’t we all? In a world full of darkness, we all have our personal and collective experiences to keep us from feeling golden.
While the previous poem may have brought us down into the depths of depression, let’s look at one that makes us feel better. There are a few poems in Spinning Jenny by Tomaz Salamun, which are translated from Slovenian. One, “Walsenburg,” translated by Ana Jelinkar and Joshua Beckman, begins with the line, “All these cities are the sun.” The poem, too, has a brightness about it. It illustrates a walk to the post office, taking pleasure in simple things like flags waving, ants crawling, laborers working. And then ends on an oddly bizarre note: “Oh, what a thin animal the domestic cat / is, beauty, which is the crushing // of joints, budding like vapor! / What a thin animal the domestic cat is! / What a city is Walsenburg!” Wait, crushing joints, you ask? Okay, so I’m clueless about that, but it is a great image, isn’t it? – I don’t know if this is a happy poem. It’s hard to tell; but it leaves me chuckling and smiling, head tilted in wonder.
In a way, all the poems in Spinning Jenny should make you happy just because they’re enjoyable to read, even the last one – William Winfield Wright’s “Fucking Poems about Chess.” I’m not usually fond of poems with vulgarity and/or swear words. Mostly, I think they’re a gimmick and useless to literary art. But this is a funny poem, and makes fun of itself. Plus, it’s over the top. Suddenly, the “F” word becomes commonplace. The poem begins “Make your move / make your move / make your move / make your move / make your fucking move already.” Come on, haven’t we all thought that tons of times? Not necessarily in chess, but you could easily replace “make your move” with “come on, I’m starving; get in the car” or “ugh, stop tapping your finger on the table; you’re annoying the crap outta me.” For seven and a half pages, we wait in frustration with the speaker, and by the end, you’ll want to scream “make your fucking move already,” too. In a bizarre twist, the final line brings a sense of peace to the extremely frustrated poem. The speaker says “Now let’s try it together.” If only we collaborated more often!
Spinning Jenny is one of my new favorite lit mags. Poets and poetry lovers will dive into this tasty meal and leave with a full contented belly.