The work in this issue of the Birmingham Poetry Review is terribly moving, highly accomplished, and unexpectedly inspiring. How not to be simply undone by Deborah Ager’s “A Poem in Which My Father is Not the Villain,” which opens the issue? “I believe we commit errors we want no one to know about, / that we wish we could bathe and be healed and sip whisky and be clean.”
I was brought to tears by Ager’s ability to capture the raw and authentic emotion that governs so many of our lives with a few lines that appear, deceptively, so simple. Her poem is matched in skill and potency by work from Sheri Allen in “Crown of Cyclamen,” Julie Funderburk’s “The Spy’s Egg,” Medbh McGuckian’s “Noir Poem,” “Black Ice” by Anne-Marie Thompson, and “The Stand-Off,” from Will Wells.
Worthy of special recognition this issue are poems by Ryo Yamaguchi in his “Lyric” series. These are eccentric, exciting, and unimaginably original poems that are emotionally and intellectually satisfying, exquisitely composed, and memorable. They combine a sense of personal engagement, lyric elegance, and contemporary energy. These poems make me glad to be alive (and often, I confess, I am not so terribly pleased with the whole endeavor) and thrilled to be a reader. Here are the opening lines of “Lyric #5”:
O city, O thunderclap O ionic vertical rise, be what you may be but be mine.
Here is burn and the brass, my long lines that empty into your streets, your amusements
and cornerstones, your wailing and your
hefts of sodium light. So I took and have been taken, so I jumped your turnstiles.
I have, oh, yes—thanks to these poems—been taken.