The best part of Court Green, published annually by Columbia College of Chicago, is always the “Dossier,” featuring a special topic or theme. And this year’s, “Letters,” is my favorite so far. Whatever the reason – because letter-writing is, in its essence, about the printed word; or because so many of us have some things we can imagine saying to so many people; or because people who love to write and are, by profession, proficient at it, are also, naturally, great letter-writers – these “letter poems” make for extremely inventive and entertaining reading.
Imagined and imaginary letter recipients include everyone/thing from forms of punctuation (a missive to the question mark) to sports teams (an “uncomfortable” note to the Minnesota Wild hockey team), to other poets, to famous historical figures (Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth I, all in one poem), to friends, to the letter “V,” to lovers (new lovers, lost lovers, would-be lovers, unrequited lovers, imaginary lovers), to government officials (“Dear Mr. Director of the Census Bureau”). Perhaps the most amusing and surprising is the exchange of letters between poet Albert Goldbarth and the editors of Court Green! The most moving are Kimiko Hahn’s “The Factory Salesman’s Wife: A Letter about a polluted lake in China,” and “King of Hearts,” a letter to his father by Richard Jones. The most structurally unique is Jennifer H. Fortin’s excerpt from “Mined Muzzle Velocity,” a series of postcard-like structures in charts/boxes. The editors cleverly close the non-dossier section of the issue with a poem by Rachel Loden and begin the dossier section with another by her, “Dear Question Mark,” the quintessential letter recipient, it seems to me.
The first half of the issue features many poems and prose poems similarly clever, amusing, or edgy, including poems by Jan Bottiglieri, Shana Cleveland, David Dodd Lee, and Chip Livingstone, among others. Joy Katz and Kimiko Hahn contribute poems with decidedly more solemn tones (“a simple arrangement of lines / vanishing into perspective” – “When I Look at Architectural Models,” by Katz; nontheless “rife with ambiguity” – “The Poetic Memoirs of Lady Daibu,” by Hahn).