Mar 8, 2011

issue 3: all things good and lovely

Issue #3 is a sprawling tapestry. Upon reviewing, we find few mutual markers. Is that the editors job, we wonder, to construct a frame to contain so much diversity? If this is the case then we're in for some failure here. We're not quite sure what an editor actually does, other than being the one guilty of selecting stuff that expresses a particular taste stirred by fluctuations of mood and appetite.

On one hand there's the pull of aesthetic consistency, on the other the push of sleepy-headed conformity. That ghastly concept of brand-building, how to stand out, find your 'niche', to contain and preserve something that by its design is quite flighty. How did the turtle break his own shell?

Poetry, in particular, we like to think, continually attempts to test the boundries, in their instance, the boundaries of language. A pursuit of some objectivity, however unlikely, simply by refusing to let the dust settle, by complicating our understanding rather than purifying it, by stubbornly moving ahead, shedding its skin, building up and tearing down.

Compare the tired rhetoric of politics or it's pink-hued brother advertising. Eventually the dust comes to settle in your lungs.

In this issue 5 poets and 1 prose/story/flash writer whose contribution, we think anyway, borders in its plotlessness on the poetical, round in shape rather than linear, continually rearranging its departure.

Abhimanyu Kumar Singh's poems strikes us with the bounding tempo of beatnik with its tendency toward stark and personal sincerity while meditating on and coloring in ancient subject matter (see the first poem, "a minor") without falling to reverence. We suppose a lineage of sorts can be traced from Whitman to Lorca to Ginsberg and beyond.

Howie Good's poems is a different kind of strange. The imagery is dense, populated, within which the "I" (the writer's various extensions) is found hiding out ("I hide behind a bush"), a passive observer and victim of his own unpausing imagination. Everything is concentrated, and comes at you in ultra-rapid. We sense an influence here from cinema, a director framing his shots, mysterious in their lack of context and conclusion, as if left on the editing board. It is both comical and at times, unnerving.

Susan Sonnen's first poem "All Things Good and Lovely" is a most devestating account made all the more so by the narrator's telling, recalling a news reader whose objectivity relies on her perfect posture, turning from camera 1 to camera 2 as she moves with appropriate pause from a story of a dead child to a hot dog eating contest. Of course, this is not a news story, however, but a poem, each line break falling like a thud. The following poems become increasingly personal.

We like Ruth Webb's one poem, similarly, taking aim, seemingly, at a personal close-at-hand experience. It makes us wonder to what extent "beauty" holds poetry hostage as a form of expression. How do we write about the ugly things, or even things quite mundane, or feelings that border on self-indulgence or the sentimental. By refining them, 'transcending' them, into something quiet, startling, beautiful? Perhaps, but we think that this process also have an impulse to dehumanize its subject, intellectualize it, or in other words, make it into an object, another thing in the world.

We (nothing against our other poets) are quite enamoured with Simone Martel's two pieces. We find them absolutely gutting, in part, we think, by their seeming simple makeup. The first, a list of 15 birthday's, sparsely but distinctly detailed. A life and relations that could easily fill a novel are here instead revealed in a couple of swift brush-strokes. The second story picks up, in a way, where the list ends, and goes about describing with equal brevity the relation between a mother and a son, a daughter and a father, uncensored, and unadorned.

The issue ends with a more uplifting series of poems by Travis McDonald. They recall to some degree Howie Good's ultra-rapid and peculiar imagery. Snap-shots, if you will, the absurdist and his palette of concrete. The I-eye of each poem is continually confronted with some trivial revelation or other. He's unaware, rejected, ignored and ultimately beaten up by an ape.

And hiding behind a mime doesn't help much.

It never really does.

Yes, such, we think, is the predicament of any aspiring poet.

Thanks to Rose Carson, Jennifer Tomaloff, Mary Oswald and Poets Cornered for providing artwork for this issue. We're quite short on art, photography, etc. so any submission of this kind is greatly appreciated.

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