This issue of Basalt, an Eastern Oregon University issued poetry and short prose journal, contains the work of seventeen writers and one visual artist: Timothy C. Ely, whose book The Observatory demands close scrutiny and makes the viewer look at the heavens differently. Many of the poems should also be studied, especially the ones mentioned herein.
Katrina Robert’s poem, “Composition,” begins, “Someone is crying in the far room. / How long will it go on?” and then continues down the page like a musical composition. In “Murder, Unincorporated,” Marge Piercy’s narrator explains why she is “of the opinion that almost / anyone would kill for something.” Christopher Howell’s poem, “Out to Pasture,” beautifully uses the elongated metaphor of a middle-aged person compared to a “half destroyed tower in a field / of weeds.” Shaindel Beers’s poem, “Shelly’s Daughter Watches Skateboarders,” makes the reader smile and cry, as the narrator warns a seven-year-old girl away from boys, explaining what harm they can do.
Chris Dombrowski retells the tale of John the Baptist’s beheading in his “Self-Portrait as the Head as Dandelion Head Discovered in the Crop of a Partridge.” Donald Wolff’s “Red-Tailed Hawks” is a melancholy poem in which the narrator muses on people’s commonalities with hawks. Most of these poems are straightforward and can be understood on the surface in one slow reading, yet to appreciate their form and depth, they must be read many times.
Basalt has some thematic issues, so a writer would do well to check the website for the most current information. And a reader would do well to check out the magazine, especially if s/he likes philosophical poetry and/or poetry with strong imagery.