This is the twentieth anniversary issue and I can’t think of a better birthday present than a poem as heartbreakingly skillful as Jennifer K. Sweeney’s “Something Like Love,” winner of last year’s Poetry Awards. It’s deceptively simple and deceptively good, sounding, at first, like it might be one more casual conversation masquerading as verse, (“In our kitchen” the poem begins), which it most definitely is not (“Dinner time-traveled us to the unfinished, the unclaimed. / We ate the past. // Though we never spoke of it, my sisters and I, / we were all under the regime of the rotting.”) “Something Like Love” merges the twin absences of food and love and expresses the pain of an undernourished (nurtured) childhood with a kind of restraint and grace that is rare and impressive – and utterly memorable.
Sweeney’s poem is typical of the magazine’s editorial bent, work that is both “accessible” (easily comprehended or, at the least, not deliberately opaque) and artful. An unusual contribution is Florence Cassen Mayer’s poem, “RICHARDHOWARD,” a “concrete poem” composed of configurations of the letters that make up the name Richard Howard (the poet and editor, I assume) in upper case letters. “War,” “coward,” and “cad” are among the results. “Cad?” is the last line. Has Howard done something terrible or disgraceful that I somehow missed? Did he reject Cassen Mayer’s work? (Full disclosure: he’s rejected mine.) I must single out, as well, fine poems by Jennifer Greshem and Richard J. Fein.
The winner of The Ledge Fiction Awards, “Monument of Bird,” by Xujun Eberlein shares with the poetry winner a deceptively simple delivery. Also a story of childhood, this is a tender tale of loss and cultures and generational perspectives at odds. Other stories in this issue are similarly appealing, in particular, Julie Wittes Schlack’s “Perspective.” This issue’s stories are round, fully realized, and satisfying. Here’s wishing The Ledge another successful twenty years!