Household names – in households that read poetry, of course – include Alice Notley, Simone Muench, Jan Beatty, David Dodd Lee, and Alan Michael Parker. Forces to be reckoned with include Michael Robins, James Shea, Dora Malech, Daniel Borzutsky, Anne Boyer, Suzanne Buffam, and Mathias Svalina. Up-and-coming poets include Kristin Ravel, Sarah Elliott, Sandra Lim, and K. Silem Mohammad, among others.
Columbia Poetry Review (Columbia College in Chicago, not Columbia University in New York) selections tend to be edgy, direct, unfussy, sharply shaped, and intently focused, steering clear of the ordinary, even when the language is casual or plainspoken. Sentimentality is utterly unheard of here, and images of popular culture, from food to moves, are as ubiquitous as pizza. Here are the opening lines of Hideaki Noguchi’s “To Brain”:
I know you know
going to write,
you know I’m
you figuring me
out and asking
why? Why did
you let me think
that God was in this
I believe the
in 4th grade because it
never ate my peanut.
And with another reference to popular frozen food, here is Zachary Green, from “I Could Not Eat the TV Dinner Dessert”:
I got back to the Star Wars aisle
maybe I touched Princess Leah?
I was bitching
car could have really hurt me
and my Goldfish cohorts
so at home I felt safe by the hands descending –
at commercial break
And more pizza from Andrew Terhune’s “Jeff Bridges”:
On my sixth birthday, we order pizza
and rent two movies from the gas station;
Ernest Goes to Camp and Tron.
Jeff Bridges is in Tron.
Columbia Poetry Review favors poems with provocative titles: “To Cause Defendant to Sell Drugs in This State, Benjamin Kept Changing the Destination” (Izzy Oneiric); “Nellie Oleson Compares Me to Her” (Juliet Cook); “One little person gets shot at the RV park” (a prose poem by Karyna McGlynn); “I’ve seen enough movies to know how to love” (Gregory Sherl); “Get on Board the Sixties” (Parker Smathers). The issue also features a number of pieces with unusual forms or structures: Mark Yakich’s “Manhattan,” composed of eighteen lines of large-font upper case letters turned on their side; “The 9/11 Commission Report” by Travis MacDonald, report text sprawled in reverse type across two pages with key words in bold to form a poem inside the prose; and Sarah Elliott’s three-column poem, “the back of a woman in a cornfield.”
The issue opens with Sandra Lim’s “Now, Voyager,” whose closing lines could be said to embody the journal’s editorial stance (or perhaps even the purpose, on some levels, of poetry):
There is something exciting about it, nonetheless.
Something very wrong and very familiar,
making us stranger and starker to ourselves.