Travel. I can’t think of a lovelier thought as, here in the northeastern US, I look out the window to see snow blasting by with below-zero wind chills and FEMA storm warnings chirping through my phone. I can hunker down indoors, curl up with my iPod and a cup of hot tea, and travel the globe and the deepest inner reaches of emotion by reading Editor Sally Long’s selections in the December issue of Allegro.
If you’ve not yet ventured away from your paperback journals—believe me, I was resistant once as well—Allegro should be your gateway journal. The quarterly publication is simply laid out in a single column blogpost style on the homepage. While I enjoy a lot of the bells and whistles online publications can take advantage of, there is also some comfort in the simple, one-page scrolling Allegro provides. The poems are all relatively short to moderate in length, and most fit in the vertical column, though a few are better read in the horizontal layout to accommodate their longer lines. No page turning. No multiple clicks. Just read and scroll. Read and scroll. With 23 poems, one per author, the reading is quick—one bus ride or wait in the doctor’s office—which is good because the quality of the craft of these poets invites multiple reading.
Of the works, there are no two that seem the least alike in style nor their approach to the theme of Travel. Michael Bradburn-Ruster’s “A Recipe for Sangria” opens with the tantalizing
A single orange, a tender peach, sliced
and cubed, respectively, then strewn with care
into the pool of grenadine, at least
until the fibers of the flesh flicker
And I am instantly transported to sitting next to sweating pitcher of sangria, just perfect for a hot summer’s day.
Some of the works generalized the feelings of travel. “Going East” by Emily Strauss caught me with the line, “I leave this place looking backwards / at what remains—” It is literal (as in sitting on the back-facing seat of a train) but also examines both the place of the traveler in moving on while still holding on to where she has been. And Brandon Hartman’s “Potholes and Panhandlers” could be in any number of cities we have all visited and lived, “And the potholes, God bless them, / patient panhandlers with their hats flipped upside-down, take a bow— / will you toss in a quarter?”
A number of writers took the opportunity to reminisce about or imagine specific locations of travel, with strikingly detailed imagery that capture the sense of the place, as in “Venetian” by John Mole
strung out across the water
sill to sill like bunting,
exchange of secrets
intimate and shy.
And in “Barcelona,” Cara McKee is able to relate the distinct sensory shifts from one place to another:
Clearly a mistake
to leave the cool green,
summer of soggy,
Exchanging our home for another
in August heatwave-heavy
And one of my favorites, Kersten Christianson’s “Road Trip,” which could be any one of us anywhere in our cars, but for the mention “a Juneau radio station” and “a pocket full of loonies”—the Canadian one-dollar coin with the image of the loon, a common bird species in the country. It is this kind of fine detail that each writer adds to their work, not so much that the reader would feel left out for not understanding it better, but rather just enough to invite the reader into that place, make them feel a sense of being there.
The writing touches universal themes to which we can all relate, but in the context of some place—whether specific or general. And the sense of travel is physically in space in time or just in memories. There’s even a travel poem about not traveling to a place, as Cathryn Shea takes on attitude to confronts readers in “Vegas,” which begins:
When we first meet, I’m not going
to tell you
I’ve never been to Las Vegas,
as if you would find that shocking.
Allegro clearly attracts some of the best writing from which Editor Sally Long is able to make some no doubt difficult but rewarding decisions for the writers as well as us readers. A simple and easily accessible publication that, if it is your gateway to online journal reading, will have you hooked and ready to travel onward.