Starting a new publication, especially "in times like these" (TM), is a cause for congratulation, so here's celebrating the debut of Naugatuck River Review, "a journal of narrative poetry that sings." (Shouldn't all poetry?) The "narrative" label may bring to mind first person nature encounters and bittersweet childhood memories, and NRR contains its share. The real pleasures, though, are the memorable characters, the people whose lives show up in small glimpses between the lines. We meet a sawmill worker whose retirement ceremony belies his rough-and-tumble life, a bar patron who learns to resist being treated as an object and authors her own adventure, and a cross dresser who tries too hard to impress.
The poems do not tell the whole story; rather, what is unsaid in these poems gives the reader a role in completing the narrative. For subtle gut-punches, try Karen G. Johnston's "Honey Creeps." In direct language, this poem uses the image of honey climbing a jar ("how it insinuates itself between / glass rim and tin lid, each morning irksome glue") to examine the seductiveness of sweetness, which becomes a commentary on a society that lets people get away with injustice. Once read, the double meaning of the title becomes clear. For a whole other take on a jar, there's a tale of moths by Christel Warren that anecdotally gestures to Wallace Stevens. Finally, in Derek Sheffield's "Oystermen," a passive observer carefully follows the title workers at midnight: "With slowing eyes, I watch them roam / and dazzle like prehistoric fireflies." In turn, he becomes aware of his own longing to partake in their honest labor, to "break each gritty fruit / from its cluster and become something other / than their midden ghosting the shore." Here's best wishes for Issue #2.