Kerplooey! Brand spanking new, Organs of Vision and Speech’s first issue bangs its way into the literary magazine world with an impressive array of poets and artists. Launched by Stephen and Ivy Page in December 2009 and based out of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, OVS publishes new and established poets. Their only criteria? Great writing. This issue begins with an interview with and re-printed poem by the acclaimed poet Maxine Kumin. Um, fireworks anyone? You can’t help but be impressed with a new lit mag whose very first issue boasts the work of such an important contemporary poet. But there’s more. Known and unknown poets alike, the pages of OVS will blind you with fresh new work.
My favorite poem among the brilliant selections is titled “Shallot” by Jeff Friedman. The speaker is talking to an onion. How is that not brilliant? He begins by explaining how he had been chopping the shallot and cut his finger. “I get little bits of you all over me,” he says. Of course, the rest of the poem has nothing to do with a shallot. Is the shallot a metaphor? Is the shallot an allusion to a person? Hell if I know. What he tells it is the important thing. It’s a rambling poem, where the speaker meanders off a list of simple pleasures and odd images. He says:
I’m ready for an eclipse
that brings me salty waves, pelagic
pleasures. I’m ready to dance among
lemon wedges while the rosemary reaches
for the sun, and the orchid sways
and dips and red ladies drop
their skirts to their knees, wiggling free.
And he goes on with more weird images, finally coming back to his beloved onion: “Now you wait for me / shimmying in a sleek pan,” ending, “giving up your bitterness / to the peppery oil.” For me, this poem is about simplicity, small pleasures, sensual delights. When I read it, I want to hold my own shallot and inhale its loveliness.
The artwork in OVS is sparse and simple. Out of the four black-and-white pieces, one of which is a humorous photograph from Peter Schwartz of two men sitting on a curb, called “Street Musicians,” I thought the most interesting and worthy piece of the bunch is “Fingertrap.” The artist is Beth Page, who also serves as the magazine’s Illustrator/Designer. I guess she knows her stuff. “Fingertrap” looks like a lithograph, but since there are no medium descriptions, it’s hard to tell. Two white hands are joined by black fingertraps. Remember those things from when you were a kid? Kind of fun to play with until your finger got stuck and scratched? It’s a simple piece and aesthetically pleasing, but also hints at something meaningful about human relationships. Maybe being stuck in a relationship, but also maybe reaching out to someone you’d normally look over, forming a new bond.
The only criticism, if you can call it that, that I have, besides the lack of artwork description, is that there are no author bios in OVS. One could argue that this is preferred – let the poem speak for itself. But I like author bios. When I read a poem that gives me the warm fuzzies of great writing, I want to know who wrote it and what they’re about. I’m willing to overlook this, though, because OVS is simply a really good journal with really good writing. Some say go out with a bang. OVS is coming in with fire and light.