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West Branch - Spring/Summer 2005

  • Issue Number: Number 56
  • Published Date: Spring/Summer 2005
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual
The poets of West Branch have something to say, and though the imagery may be beautiful and the lines carefully crafted, there is nothing excessive, artsy, or difficult for difficulty's sake. This observation hit me as I read Yona Harvey's wonderful "Turquoise," in which the poet bluntly tells a young female student that "wearing turquoise jewelry & Frida Kahlo skirts / doesn't make women artists." Another straightforward voice I liked was that of Roger Mitchell, whose long poem, "Grise," recalls Mitchell's sabbatical in Ellesmere among the Inuits, who "long ago said to the world / they were through playing noble or happy savage / in the West's tales of necessary innocence." The always sharp Charles Harper Webb enjoys the adventures of Melville in "The Last Chapter of Moby Dick," wondering: "Why waste time discussing Marxist / feminist, queer, post-structuralist theories / their logic tangled as harpoon lines / crisscrossing a whale's back / their barbs just sharp enough to irritate?" The poetry essays are notable for not simply being fawning advertisements for favorite poets' work. In particular, Karen Kovacik's "Observations on the American Soul: Notes from Warsaw," is a thoughtful exploration of spirituality in poetry. I smile even now, rereading: "Maybe in this postmodern world, the ‘self’ or ‘language’ (or the ‘self as language’) is all we have to believe in, but if this is the case, I choose to remain a skeptic."
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Review Posted on September 30, 2005

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