Known for its colloquial writing, The Main Street Rag, in its latest issue, features an interview with Steve Roberts, author of the Main Street Rag poetry book Another Word for Home; six fiction entries (though one is also, perplexingly, labeled as “Commentary”); over 100 pages devoted to poetry, including writers such as Lyn Lyfshin; five book reviews, and a page of feedback from readers.
A handful of typos, a layout that occasionally includes poems by different authors on the same page, and a whimsical “Passenger List” in lieu of the more standard table of contents contribute to the homespun aesthetic. If the journal sometimes reveals its seams, readers and potential contributors will nonetheless find a strong community when it comes to unpretentious poems.
Lines such as,
Beginning in March it is important
To wonder why we are important
If what we do is swill important
Wine and discuss, while drinking, important
Issues of the day…
as well as “I’d drown a thousand midnights in the sea / to recreate just one I spent with you” represent a frequent approach throughout the issue. The poets often favor the occasional abstraction as well as familiar subjects. One poem offers a “Recipe for Success as a Poet” and defiantly concludes with the exhortation:
Do not listen to idiots telling you what you should or should not do
with your life.
Another poem describes the young by remarking, “How restless in their youth.” Poems inspired by Ginsberg and Bukowski appear alongside poems that pay tribute to the everyday, from the New York Yankees to American flags. Banalities do not appear as something to eschew, but as a part of life, equally deserving of attention. As such, The Main Street Rag remains largely true to its purpose, which is in part to present “work that is alive with the poet's own experiences.” Still, one might hope for greater imaginative risks.
It should come as little surprise that the issue’s standouts are Rikki Santer’s “Charles Darwin Visits the Beagle Point Mall,” a poem which melds shoppers and commonplace objects with extravagant animals, and Tamas Dobozy’s impactful “Oscar’s Cabinet of Curiosities”—a story that mines the wisdom in tragic circumstances with a fable-like quality. These alone would make the issue a pleasure to explore.