The Aurorean is a powerhouse of poetry. Published biannually out of Farmington, Maine, the Spring/Summer 2018 issue is sixty-one pages packed with works by seventy poets. For this reason, I would never recommend anyone read this full volume in one sitting. Doing so would leave any reader in a state akin to post-marathon exhaustion. Instead, this slim journal should be carried along your daily journey as a companion to life, to refresh your perspective, renew your vision, and deepen the experience of your existence.
While the publication claims its “focus is always poetry of New England,” I can honestly say I didn’t even realize that until I read that comment later, and even then, I can’t say the poetry seemed overwhelmingly “New Englandly.” Rather, the more predominant feature throughout was content on nature and the human experience in the natural world, which the editors contend is also their focus: “poetry of the seasons (including haiku) although we are open to other subjects as well. In a world full of angst, we publish poetry that uplifts, inspires, and is meditational, but is not religious or denominational, as we are ever mindful of diversity.” I will leave defining what it is or isn’t to the editors; as a reader, I can just say it is all top-notch.
With so much to choose from, my attempt is to offer a selection which displays diversity. I appreciated Laura McCullough’s “Dissonance & Still” for its treatment of crows and birds of prey, which can so easily be trivialized in poetic metaphor. Instead, she crafts a sense of reverence for these symbolic forms, opening with: “Crows outside my window in the dancing trees / make me think of intergenerational trauma,” further referencing the crows to explore our relationships with others as well as ourselves.
Neil Silberblatt’s “Autobiography” drives metaphor in a fresh direction, correlating “these lines” with the very life of some sentient being, opening with:
begun in earnest good hope
and great expectations,
have been severely edited.
And then moves to:
have grown so weary
of being perused and picked at
I was delighted with the humor in Denise Alden’s “Afterlife,” which begins:
Complaining about the rain
only makes me question your skill as a lover:
you seem to be in a hurry, hurry to finish,
just as you wish for flowers
on the first day in April.
Following this with the first line of the second stanza, “My nature is more lethargic,” got me to break a smile and want to read on.
Similarly, Joan Mazza uses this reversal technique in “Southern Ladies,” which opens:
Taught to be straight-backed, pale,
genteel, they speak softly so that people
lean in to listen. With a smile, the aim
is to be admired as a woman of grace,
a grateful, gracious host, a great beauty.
And then that second stanza begins with: “No one mistakes me for a Southern / belle.” Both poets take these twists to examine the speakers’ experiences and relate how different one person’s perspective on life can be from another’s.
Seasonal works are fitting to what readers may see outdoors this time of year. As I have been watching my husband pull up every square inch of grass in our yard to replace it with perennials, I enjoyed Ken Craft’s “Lawn Chemistry”:
Every day I run past them.
Addicted lawns sprawled beside sidewalks,
telltale irrigation marks.
Anthropomorphizing lawns in this way gave me a whole new creepy way of viewing them, but it’s the chemicalization of lawning that has many seeking alternatives to lessen our footprint on this planet. Craft speaks to exactly this with some fun but poignant word crafting:
The grass is high
on keeping up with the Joneses.
Smith, Scotts. Dependent
and desperate, lawns
treated & tagged
by masked professionals
While, again, most of the poetry is focused on nature, the editors do appear open to diversity in its many forms. “The Kid Across the Street” by Howard Winn is testament to this, its subject in the title line which starts the poem: “The Kid Across the Street / must be eleven or twelve / is shooting baskets by himself” and explores the mindset and fantasy building of an adolescent shooting hoops all alone. And Joanne Stokkink’s “A Door Just for a Moment: To David, My Husband,” offers a visual portrait of a man moving a door, the speaker of the poem shifting the moment to kind of magical realism in which the door is the man (or vice versa?).
The Aurorean slips in several pages of haiku, which, though small forms, are some of the most concentrated poetry on the planet when deftly crafted, as these are. While I’m a huge haiku fan and loved them all, my favorites came from Alan S. Bridges, Tom Sacramona, Deborah P Kolodji, Greg Schwartz, Mike Spikes, and Ruth Holzer.
The Aurorean is more than a journal of poetry. It is a community of writers who, while brought into a collection by editors, seem more like a symposium of poets who planned this publication to gift to their readers—which speaks to the skills of said editors. The Aurorean also recognizes writers in a unique way, offering two Featured Poets in each issue, four Showcase Poets, and two “Bookend Poets” (named for the placement of their works in relation to the Featured and Showcase Poets). The editors also select a “Poem Pick” from the previous issue and award that author $30 and highlight one Editor’s Chap/Book Choice in each issue.
The Aurorean is a jam-packed journal of poetic delights, one to add to a subscription list—only two issues, but they will fulfill you for the entire year—or to gift to a poetry lover in your circle. I have no doubt it will become each reader’s new best companion.