I earmarked dozens of pages while reading through the magazine as it is absolutely brimming with bright pieces that speak for themselves. Many poems are just a few lines but force the reader to stop and ponder the full impact and resonating meaning. After I read Charles Jensen’s one sentence poem, I got up and started telling everyone in my house about the amazing poem I just read: “Planned Community.” I mean, wow! There is setting, characters, description, action, movement, sound, and the list goes on. So much is accomplished in just a short sentence. Court Green putting out a dossier for short poetry was not a tall order; there are many more fantastic poems just like it.
Evan Lavender-Smith writes a paragraph-length prose poem titled “Huge Trouble.” It begins:
Mom said God is not real. I told Dad what Mom said. Dad said even though God is not real for Mom God could still be real for me. I told Mom God is still real for me. Mom said only crazy people still think God is real. I told Dad Mom called me crazy. Dad said you are not crazy. I told Mom Dad said I am not crazy. Mom said Dad is crazy. I told Dad what Mom said. Dad said Mom is talking crazy.
And on it goes. I laughed all the way through. The proper nouns of Mom, Dad, and God is a bold move for characterization and turns titles into people. The banter back and forth really illustrates the confusion and movement of the child from one parent to the other, with God sort of being the overseeing entity that does not hold a physical place in the argument. Finally, the bickering reaches its climax when “Mom said talk to God and then we will see who is really fucking crazy. I told Dad what Mom said. Dad said Mom is in huge trouble.” The repetition in the poem helps keep the reader organized, and wit and bite shine through the clarity.
While Aaron Smith includes several insightful poems, his first, “What it Feels like to be Aaron Smith,” sucked me into his mind and refused to let go until my mind had been thoroughly washed in his essence. It’s almost as if I became him, became his thought process as the words fall across the page in his second person narrative:
Though you would never admit it, you’re still shocked by pubic hair in Diesel ads on Broadway and Houston, and you wonder what conversations lead up to a guy posing with his pants unzipped to the forest. Maybe the stylist does it, but somebody had to think, let’s show pubic hair, and was that person nervous about saying, hey: I have a great idea: pubic hair. You think about David Leddick’s book Naked Men Too, and the model with the cigarette whose mother photographed him with his jeans falling off and his pubic hair showing and how that’s weird and you can’t even begin to process how someone would let his own mother photograph him nearly naked and why a mother would want to.
In this poem, Smith continues to dare things normally questioned inside and really bares it all for us to see. While that takes great courage, it produces great writing. The ending is a sort of afterthought: “but you probably shouldn’t—no, you shouldn’t write that.” Yet he does, and the reader becomes enveloped by his presence.
There are just so many nuggets of essential and thought-provoking truths. Suzanne Buffam writes two perfectly crafted sentences that act as an explanation, a description for the title “On Aging Gracefully.” Then, Elaine Equi also masters the short poem with “Caught in a Downpour,” consisting of only one short line. These writers prove that you do not need a novel or an epic to evoke emotion and deep thought from your reader. When one takes the time to mull it all over, some of these poems have depth like the sea.
After I finished reading, I felt that Robert Creeley’s sentiment in “One Day” adequately put how I felt about the poems in this issue: “perfect. / They all fit.”