Issue number 71 is a slender volume of poems that act as a slice of American life, with a focus on entertainment. Since entertainment is such a heavy influence in American culture, it seemed fitting, though sometimes oddly juxtaposed to the poems that focus more on rural life in America and to the cover image, the letter and photograph of a Civil War Soldier.
The magazine begins with “In Kansas,” a poem by Ellen Seusy, and one of my favorite pieces in this issue. Though brief, the poem conveys a sense of place – “draught, heat, wind, / a cool drink from the well.” – while also mixing the spiritual, “talking about the Lamb of God” with the material, “or someone’s new Chrysler.” That poem, followed by a translation of the poem “Traitor,” by Nazim Hikmet, prepares the reader for an issue that will delve into America – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
For the most part, the issue is successful in this – with the childhood memory poems like “Miss Bridges and Ninth Grade Biology” by Rawdon Tomlinson, “Civil War” by Jeffery Berg, and “Clint Eastwood” by Pamela Rasso next to poems on meaningless media and advertising, like “Undeath Do Us Part” by Michael Jaynes and “Lobster-Boy” by Vanessa Blakeslee. The poetry is mostly free verse and written in first person, and while reading the issue, it seemed that the poems focusing on media were the weaker poems, often reading like prose with line breaks.
However, there are many strong and moving poems in this issue, making Hiram Poetry Review once again a worthwhile read.