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Birmingham Poetry Review - Summer/Fall 2006

  • Issue Number: Number 33
  • Published Date: Summer/Fall 2006
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

BPR is one of those slim, no-nonsense poetry journals that publishes a strong selection of the best work that comes their way, followed by several book reviews. No filler, no academia, no kidding. In that spirit, I'll just get down to a couple of the poems I admired most, starting with James Doyle's playful "Magritte," in which "an admirer / has slid the skeleton of a pheasant" through the surrealist painter's mail slot. Surreal itself, the poem has the artist setting the skeleton down on a chess board, "thinking checkmate to flesh it out. // It picks up his brushes, paints / its way out of checkmate, / square by square, across the canvas." In "Deer Skull," Michael Henson finds a doe's skull in the snow and takes it away with him through a field; what's interesting about this is the strange whistling sound he hears and can't quite place, until realizing it's the wind through the skull's nostrils. The event prompts the poet to contemplate his own mortality, for what does all his "heaving of animal breath / in and out of [his] damp nostrils" come to? The quite Buddhist revelation: "Nothing at all. / Only this breath that I catch from moment to moment. / Only this moment of body, this / articulated stack of whistling bone." And finally, A.C. Speyer's "Anacoluthon at the Zoo" questions our cultural habit of caging animals and watching them for entertainment. The poet's little girl wonders if zoo animals are happy; father does not answer but asks his own internal questions ("Are they even dangerous? Is this how / we overcome our cave-forged fears-- / by displaying them? Or do we gawk / reverently by default like nervous / dilettantes dawdling an art gallery?") Rather, he uneasily settles for the child-appropriate response: "'They'll live longer like this . . . ' / 'Look, the seals are performing tricks.'" There are many more good poems here; pick up a copy and see for yourself!

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Review Posted on June 30, 2007

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