Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The new issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review is now online. This is one of my favorite online journals. The poetry is excellent, the book reviews abundant, interviews comprehensive, and essays thought-provoking. My only regret about the new issue is that its appearance means I'm no longer the featured poet. But the good news is that I enjoyed a lovely six months in the spotlight and the feature, including 3 poems, a book review, and an interview, will remain in the archives for all eternity. If you missed visiting, look for me at Valparaiso Poetry Review Archives.
Also on the good news side: I have a book review in this new issue. It was a pleasure to review Kathleen Flenniken's Famous, her first full-length poetry collection. This book won the 2005 Prairie Schooner Book Prize.
Review of Famous
To whet your appetite for the book, here's one of my favorite poems, first published in Cider Press Review:
This is solace: a bowl of shredded wheat
softened perfectly in milk and today's paper
turned to the Lifestyle section.
The Russian sub is pinned front-page down
on the bottom of the Barents Sea. I'm dipping
into "The Dos and Don'ts of Shampoo,"
the distinction between lathering and cleansing,
a drown of suds in my imagined fingers
and just like that I'm lost in the silver
of my mother's hair, back in the hospital
where she sank into infirmity, her heart foundering
and all of us helpless, standing by.
I hadn't brushed her hair since I was a girl,
or ever fed her pared fruit with my hand.
A man with an ultrasound machine
pointed to the soundless blips
and in the shadows of that small screen
we saw her trapped inside her aging body.
The divers still hear taps. If I stop to think
I'll hear them too. One hundred eighteen men
in a vessel I imagine falling
like a pearl in a bottle of green shampoo.
Here's another one I very much admire, a wonderful persona poem. This one first appeared in The Iowa Review and then was featured on Poetry Daily.
To Ease My Mind
If I woke as Mary Todd Lincoln
and if Abraham Lincoln slept next to me
like an uprooted tree, his knobby fingers
unearthed, his face a burl,
grey as a Mathew Brady photograph,
and if my country were at war,
my own cousins killing my cousins,
and I'd been told to tear the country's
damask down, shred its opulence
to bandage the wounded but
I knew it was hopeless, hopeless,
there'd be no stopping the blood
of filthy, putrid common men until
every human left had lost a child, a leg, an arm
and if I'd already given everything,
if I'd given over my grieving husband —
not without kicking and screaming —
and the birds were silent
to mark the never-ending end,
then God forgive me, perhaps I too
would turn my mind to the pleasures
of kidskin gloves adorned with pearls,
embroidered daisies and chrysanthemum
stars, white on white filigree so fine
one might believe a fairy tatted them.
I might need box upon box upon box of them
to tell me who I am.