“You should read while you can,” urges the speaker in Luke Brekke’s poem “Bottom’s Poetics.” This issue of Poetry Northwest offers a number of wonderful pieces that can make any reader appreciate the opportunity to read. Staying true to their mission, the Winter & Spring 2018 issue entices its readers with “the promise of discovery” as it presents both poetry and visual art. The editors Aaron Barrell and Erin Malone note that this issue offers “a communion of eye and ear.” Indeed, careful readers have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a hybrid of visual and textual formats such as poetry comics by Bianca Stone, Colleen Louise Barry, and others.
“Ecstasy is so near!” exclaims a human-looking pig while reading a book of poetry over breakfast in Bianca Stone’s poetry comic titled “Possible Pig/Breakfast.” Appearing near the beginning of the issue, the pig’s exclamation not only functions within the strip of the poetry comic but also seems to encourage further reading of the magazine.
Written after Mohamed Bouazizi, Caitlin Roach’s piece titled “the inheritance of intelligence” is one of the most striking in this issue. The poet employs a metaphor of a hunt in a fog that involves a hunter, a doe, and a buck. The metaphor runs through the entire poem, exposing the government’s methods of “hunting” the people, or the doe. Roach masterfully integrates quotes from Mohamed Bouazizi, Barack Obama, John O. Brennan, and others within the truthful context to point out the ugliness of “the hunt.” She writes:
[ . . . ] in the forest
a doe’s bellowing pulls a buck out of the fog
through the clearing to cross to her. with near
certainty it is her and not the mouth of a man
calling her, he acts. point and click.
Despite its political character, the poem also strikes readers’ hearts, leaving one reflecting on the morality of governments’ actions.
Another political poem by T.J. Sandella titled “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” brings together a number of unlikely events. The poet writes:
The number of Americans
killed annually by
jihadist immigrants 2
armed toddlers 21
falling out of bed 737.
This comparison reveals the view of Trump’s opponents and his logic behind the call for “a total and complete shutdown.” The speaker’s predictions are not positive, especially considering the grim image of “the dark sky / darkening” as it closes the poem.
Yet another poem, this one more visual, deals with the political: Catherine Bresner’s “American Sentence.” Drawn carefully in Reed-Kellogg’s diagrams, the poem presents a visual marvel, a neatly arranged fusion of lines and words for the reader to follow. What seems to be just another weekday, Tuesday to be precise, turns into an occasion for the poet to reflect on the last election of the U.S. president. Suddenly, the title of the poem, “American Sentence,” leads to a question: Does the poet mean a set of words or a punishment?
While several works are concerned with the political theme, the reader does not have to be well versed in politics to understand the matters these poets are illuminating. In addition to politics, featured poets of this issue are concerned with various other themes. For instance, Chelsea Wagenaar’s poem “Exile (The SpellBound Horses)” focuses on nature. The speaker paints a marvelous picture of a field where “Blue lupine rims the field” “And the jasmine— / threaded through the arbor.” The picture, however, is not so peaceful as lupine “bends in a crescendo of wind” and “the jasmine pulls the storm in, / twists the dark cone from cloud / and tugs it earthward.” The speaker reveals that “The cone parts the roof to peer / at the horses, black as pupils, / so silent: a mime of fright.” But what happens to them? Wagenaar’s second poem titled “The Spellbound Horses” offers an insight as it illustrates “the afterstorm ecstasy of the sun.”
The Winter & Spring 2018 issue of Poetry Northwest offers a beautiful variety of poems and visual arts. This hybrid of visual and textual forms seems to push the boundaries of the poetic line, offering new experiences for readers. One of these new experiences is titled “Almost Opening” created by Myrna Keliher, printer, visual artist, and owner of Expedition Press. Echoing Luke Brekke’s speaker, this carefully designed centerfold, a cento, illustrates “You should read while you can,” reinforcing the urgency of discoveries that await careful readers of this issue.