“[T]he way you can feel his intelligence moving on the page in the choices and turns he makes.” This is Cornelius Eady describing the work of Gregory Pardlo, the poet whose work he has chosen for “Poets Introducing Poets,” always one of this magazine’s finest features. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a better description of that elusive and spectacular quality that makes great poetry so hard to define and so easy to love. And Eady – who praises Pardlo’s line and his ear, as well as his poetic intelligence – couldn’t be more right about Pardlo. His work is “dense, but it’s never a burden to navigate” (“Kite / strings tensing the load of a saddle- / backed wind”).
Presented here are several sections from “Marginalia,” a work that creates a portrait of a place (Brooklyn) with the sharp, nuanced eye of a master photographer, the rich, multi-layered strokes of an abstract painter, and the thoughtful musings of a confident philosopher (“Spinoza gives us / this reason not to opt off their call lists”). Eady contributes several poems to this issue, too, his lines as sharp, of course, as Pardlo’s and his ear as finely tuned as ever (“Since the horns sometimes / High-heeled the air / Like a brand new / Skirt.” from “Neighborhood Kids Play James Brown’s Xmas on their Front Porch, December 24, 2006”).
Particular attention to the integrity of the line and its potency are true, overall, of the poems in this issue. These poems exhibit an especially sensitive appreciation for the work the individual line must accomplish to “move an intelligence on the page.” Here are Kurt Steinwand: “While I can’t recall / the boy’s name, I can see / his banana-seat chopper go / flipping up and over” from “Revolver”); and Linda Pastan (“If the language of war / is victims / choose silence.” from “Silence”); and Tom Chandler (“And there is the god you do not / believe in, the one inside these words,” from “Pantheism); and Lisa Huffaker (“The snails! A whole lovely brick wall, / studded with them! You couldn’t pick them off,” from “Van Nuys”); and Gerard Grealish (“On Friday nights / my brother bought heroes” from “Boxing”).
These beautifully conceived poems, and many others, are well accompanied by Marcela Malek Sulak’s essay on “Translation and Transgression,” a useful addition to the ever evolving conversation about the difficulty of translating a poem’s “culture,” not merely its words, and smart reviews of books I would not know existed, were it not for Poet Lore.