When I think of this volume as a whole, poignancy and humor are powerfully juxtaposed. Grouped together under the conflict theme are Korkut Onaran’s “War,” Fred Voss’ “Machinist Wanted,” Jamaal May’s “Triage,” and Vuong Quoc Vu’s “Flower Bomb.” This last poem won the review’s 2007 International Poetry Competition with lines like these:
My brother, come home from war,
sits now for hours in the garden.
I see now, he says, everything
as flowers, the tendency of all things
to bloom—even the way the body bleeds,
the fire from guns, the sun unfurling
after the longest night. Everything blooms.
I hope that when Vu publishes this poem as part of a collection, he opts to leave off the introductory quotation by William Carlos Williams because Vu’s imagery is abundantly clear without this preface.
Conversely, there are somewhat humorous poems, such as “Ancient Forms” by Harold Quinn, “The Seven Very Liberal Arts,” a crown of sonnets by Marilyn L. Taylor, and “Which Means” by Stephen Dunn. Last week, quite serendipitously, I found myself as a “guest teacher” in front of high school English classes teaching a Dunn poem from a textbook. So I pulled out my copy of Atlanta Review (I carry literary reviews wherever I go, never knowing when they might come in handy). I pointed out that not all poets – Mr. Dunn, for example, see his new work – are extinct species fossilized in textbooks or those dusty tomes Maura Stanton mentions in her wonderfully evocative “Endangered Species.” Nine times out of ten, Stanton comes through for me, and she does here, closing the book perfectly with
I tilt my head back.
Books tower over my head, waiting, and inside
Each one words are coiled like dangerous snakes
Ready to inject me with all that’s left
Of some dead writer’s knowledge or nonsense
That will keep me awake all night, reading and reading.
Fortunately for all, the Atlanta Review is available by subscription, in libraries, and online in full text through the Ebsco Humanities and ProQuest databases.