This issue of Poetry East is a compendium of 100 short poems evenly divided into four sections?Morning, Midday, Evening, Night. While readers will be treated to a few poems from household names, what is far more significant is the natural flow from one piece to the next regardless of who authored them. I have never heard literary magazines, or poetry collections for that matter, referred to as "page turners," but there is a kind of lightness in these poems that leads to precisely this end. Take for example Andrea Potos's poem "Abundance to Share with the Birds," which evokes the image of hair strands removed from a brush taken up by the wind to be collected by birds for a nest.
The title of this issue (Wider than the Sky) takes its name from Emily Dickinson's poem “The Brain–is wider than the sky,” in which she writes “the brain is just the weight of god.” It should be noted that there is some talk of a higher power in this issue of Poetry East, but these instances are not so pervasive that readers who might otherwise prefer to avoid such discussion ought to be put off.
Many poems in this collection have a kind of magic in their simplicity. In Harvey Shapiro's "East Hampton Reading" we are told of an elderly man at a poetry reading who has all of his work memorized. Or Jeannine Dobbs's "The Legacy," which is both a tribute to the people and places discussed within but also as a reminder of what poetry as an art form has to offer us?in this case, the gaining of satisfaction from the smaller pleasures in life. Sara Willingham's poem, along this same line of thought, "Still Grieving,” is a meditation on the great significance we find in events that even we who experienced the event might consider too benign to bring up in conversation. Somehow these notions find their place within the realm of poetry.
Jack Myers explains the importance of poetry's glorification of the seemingly mundane with precision in "The World's Highest Mountain" where he writes: "In the end if the work each one has done / has made a space inside for someone else, it's sacred."
The translated poems in this issue are well chosen, from the unsettling poem "General, Your Tank Is Some Strong Car,” by Bertolt Brecht, translated by James Doss, to the powerful notions evoked in Laszlo Gyori's poem "The Weight of Earth," translated by Timothy Kachinske. Brecht's poem, from 1938, features a speaker who appears prophetic of the frightening mentality soon to arise with the Third Reich, whereas Gyori's piece asks us to conceptualize a world in which the earth somehow rights itself through blood shed on the battlefield.
Other notable poems include Teddy Macker's “Encyclopedia,” Antonia Pozzi's “Deserted,” which is translated by Deborah Woodard, Pablo Fernando Hernandez's “What I Know” translated by John Brotherson, Gary Metras's defeatist poem “Lint,” and an untitled poem by Cid Corman in which he writes, “There are things to be said. No Doubt.”
Poetry East has a minimalist sensibility and provides the reader with straight-forward words on a page. No nonsense, just poems. Readers of short free verse will not be disappointed.
Edited by acclaimed poet and professor of English at DePaul University Richard Jones, Poetry East is fit to stand alongside top tier literary magazines.