I always enjoy reading Atlanta Review’s poetry; the work is typically approachable, emotionally invested, and refreshingly direct. Many of the poems in this issue even seem to follow the whole “emotion recalled in tranquility” rule of poetry – the speakers are trapped in between occasions, reflecting on the past or future – at concerts, diagnoses, at movies, in the kitchen. This issue featured poems from the Atlanta Review’s 2004 International Poetry Competition, as well as an interview with the always-lively, acclaimed poet-teacher-extraordinaire Marvin Bell. There were a couple of wonderful food-oriented poems in this issue, including “Basmati” by Amy Dengler, and a great poem by Marian Wilson called “Frump Femme Fatale” about a librarian action figure gone wild. One of the other poems I particularly liked in this issue was Alicia Ostriker’s “What You Cannot Remember, What You Cannot Know,” which appears to be written to a daughter or granddaughter. I have to admit I immediately forwarded the poem to both my mother and grandmother. But don’t mistake this for any kind of easy, sentimental verse. Here’s a quote from the poem:
Now that you are almost nine,
Like a duplicate baby, and angel
Or alien, we don’t know which…
It vibrates when you practice piano,
The cotton dresses hand in your closet
Like conspirators, wavering in its breeze…
Here comes the gypsy caravan,
Dingaling, the ice cream man…
We would do anything for you,
Sweetie, but we can do nothing.
You have to do it all by yourself.
Atlanta Review is always a wonderful read, cover-to-cover, and this issue was no exception. – JHG