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Hanging Loose - 2009

  • Issue Number: Number 95
  • Published Date: 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

Hanging Loose always does a good job of mixing it up: a combination of established poets and newer voices, along with the fresh work of “writers of high school age.” The youthful poems are particularly appealing this issue, more mature in their insights than one has a right to expect from such young writers.

Here is Randie Adler’s “Detention Center”:

I once heard of a boy who
picked fights
so someone would throw him
in juvie,
and he could write.
What a fool.
Not because he has incriminated himself
(people incriminate themselves every day)
but because
every mind is solitary confinement
and every poem
a fight.

To escape the solitary confinement of the mind, we seek the company of good poems, I think, precisely because they “fight” for our salvation as part of more than a community of one. We are, at least temporarily, engaged in something larger than our own sense of isolation.

In this issue, that engagement includes wonderful poems by Maureen Owen, “my neighbors relax on their southwestern porch chatting in Spanish / Just like I always wanted my neighbors to do / Christian monasteries and Ottomon mosques or there arrives the fitful pinched” and “the beauty of the air So tonic draught intensity a liquid or when you were dead will I still always be there.” These poems are composed, as their titles suggest, of the unlikely and delightful juxtaposition of images and ideas that are hard to imagine coalescing into a meaningful whole, yet they do. Owen loves lush sounds and she shoves them together with a kind of force that can be abrupt, but somehow also fluid (“the sound of real string beans snapping / punish the dense and the glamorous”). Her poems are paintings (references to Courbet and Monet), their images both dense and precise, but they are not painterly. The sheer urgency of her breath at work just below the surface of the lines gives them a sense of quick movement and immediacy.

Another particularly engaging entry this issue are excerpts from a “memoir in letters” by Hettie Jones, Love, H: A Correspondence. Jones, author of 23 books for children and adults, traces her literary and social life from 1960 forward and provides a great view into the New York literary scene that is now, unbelievably, a half century gone in chronological accounting and a whole lot more gone than that in a kind of metaphorical literary time. I can’t wait to read more of the memoir.

Another stunning way to forget one’s solitary confinement is to engage with “Coming Attractions,” a series of acrylic on canvas paintings by Arnold Mesches, well reproduced here. The paintings are preceded with the artist’s brief remarks: “I have lived through . . . the Great Depression, wars and threats of wars, reactionary times and massive demonstrations for peace and civility. I’ve organized, mobilized, picketed and screamed, marched, cried, been thrilled and frightened, uplifted and thrown to the ground, only to paint again.” These are beautiful, mysterious, dense, colorful, sometimes whimsical, sometimes scary paintings with rich historical references and sharp political and social perspectives. “Questioning lasts longer than dogmatism,” Mesches says. This must certainly be why Hanging Loose has survived, happily, for so long.

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Review Posted on December 14, 2009

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