When you first hold the poetry journal Bateau in your hands, it reminds you of a well-crafted chapbook with some abstract art of a flat bottomed boat (the journal’s namesake), or if you are not in the know, like some strange design project from a school of design student with a wash of blue coming out in the form of the boat’s canopy. The poems here tell a human narrative that is instantly recognizable no matter the form or the foreign or alien way in which a topic is often tackled.
Rae Gouirand’s “Caveat” speaks to life’s philosophical questions: “nothing: more than sovereign / nothing: no more a ladder by the house // but the wave: to rise on it / debris: to rise on it words: like exes // making faces in the spelling / that so leaves us: vibrating our shapes.” It is as if this piece were a patchwork quilt of disparate haikus leaving us to ponder its tiny splices of wisdom.
In Lisa Issacson’s “Claro, No Es. Claro,” unlike the poets’ first two poems in this issue, the poet takes her narrative style and turns it on its head stylistically: “This black page you suck at / like your own infant shirt / Is, what / this cornfield would look like / if I were not to believe / in Jesus in habit. / Poetry buddies think / hard smacked by pigeons / in history / find something one needs / to shrink god to peer / overtime. / Grasses brush bare form / Slender and solitary / darkness pitches its tent-like dress / all our excess asleep / hike it up, wet hem dragging. / Claro.” Here the idea of clarity is brought into question or possibly relished in all of its ambiguous splendor. The translated approximation of the title, 'Clear, It is not. Clear.' is celebrated, indicating that often what we do not understand is beautiful in all of its ugliness.
The poem “In the Hands of the King” by Stephen Frech tells the narrative of a king that has fallen into madness only to come out of this state to offer up wisdom to his followers: “When the king returns from his delirium, his handlers apologize for / having witnessed his confusion. He forgives them. When he said the / world was flat, what he meant was wandering out could lead to trou- / ble.” What this poem may be referring to, with its intriguing aphorisms, is how men in positions of power absurdly shape the world they inhabit by controlling everyone and everything around them whether these decisions are rational, or more often than not, irrational.
In “Dreaming of Catching Bass,” by Louisa Howerow, the narrator is a young boy saying and noticing inappropriate things that adolescent boys often notice or ponder: “I’ve never seen my mother wear that blouse. I keep thinking boobs and mother, / I know that’s wrong. // Boobs. That’s what the kids on the street whisper every time they see / Denise. But my mom isn’t Denise and I want her to move away from Mr. / McIntyre. He doesn’t close his mouth when he eats, his mouth with those / yellow teeth.” This is a realistic representation of the meandering mind of teenage boys and the beginnings of what is often referred to as their “Oedipal complex” as it relates to the mother or mother figure in their lives.
You won’t want to leave because it will feel safe here. So before exiting this creative ship, also check out fascinating and further thought-provoking poems By Daniel Hales, K.C. Trommer and Jehanne Dubrow, as well as many others, until you sink into a placid reverie.