4 Poets from the Harvard Review Online

4 Poets from the Harvard Review Online

The Harvard Review, a literary magazine published by the Harvard University library system, was founded in 1986, but the journal moved online as the Harvard Review Online in 2009. Lee Rosi’s A Poem by Dean Young can be read here:
Lee Rossi’s poetry, reviews and essays have appeared widely; he is staff reviewer and interviewer for the online magazine Pedestal. The poem starts baldly with:

The reason why redheads, even the girls,
go bald is that they’re missing a gene,
or is it a chromosome?

And then proceeds sideways, as it were, picking up on earlier words. The girls:

Whenever a girl
smiles at me, I see a row of pearly white

The tombstones:

I like my graveyards lived in.

The girls again:

Have you ever seen a line of earrings
dangling from some girl’s ear like straps
in a subway car?

The two together:

Whenever cracks appear in the blast furnace
of my self-esteem, I know it’s time for a new wife,
the ultimate insulating material.

Shift to Dean Young, who has similar preoccupations:

If Dean Young looks real hard, he can see
the carbon atoms in his girlfriend’s nose
as they formed under enormous pressure
in stars that exploded six billion years ago.

Then to her friend:

Every couple of weeks Dean’s
young friend jabs a needle in her arm,
flooding her Great Lakes with poison.

Back to himself:

Whenever I take an RPG round
to the M-1 Abrams tank of my self-regard,
and the air’s abuzz with microscopic particles
of radioactive doubt, I know I need to punch
a hole in some attractive woman’s reserve.

Tough, unsentimental lines in contemporary diction, but, like the last lines, not without humor and charm.

Nothing clears the air like 150 mm shells
packed with humor and charm.

Ashokan Farewell by James Hoch can be read here:  http://harvardreview.fas.harvard.edu/?q=features/poetry/ashokan-farewell  James Hoch’s poems have appeared in many literary magazines, and he teaches at Ramapo College. Ostensibly, the poem is about painting.

And so someone’s standing beside you, easel and canvas
articulated in such a manner as to capture whatever the mood

But then modulates into the painter’s thoughts and sensation:

which is, it can be said, pleasantly severe, meaning
a word or two, laughter, might render the moment ruined,
thus petulant quiet, as if the wind could be punished for being.
There’s barely a whiff of paint, and already you are thinking

How thought differs from painting:

not enough to say the water shimmers in the sun,

What’s on the radio:

Already, this is a buzz-kill, a slate-gray sky, the mind
wandering into radio blare

Which takes over:

It violates the day’s etiquette of emptying itself of sound,
even as you hear Irish and West Indians clattering an aqueduct
out of the mountain, their breathing wet with work and curse
to form lake where there was no lake, a sand hog’s lament.

After which the stream of thought or reference becomes very congested:

And if the line descends, as it does, as it must, beneath,
you go too into field, barn, plough, furnace, the plain church
cold-kilned in silt and sand, its bell swaying over a yard,
the village dead weeping dumbly trying to remember
where they were buried, their faces caught in the slow
rush and draft of human thirst.

Visceral and immediate:

If only we could have ceased then stilled in the acid wash
of our own want, so that our bodies carried the trace stench
of our undoing, so that loving each other, wild timid anew,
we would not mistake taint for gift, tungsten for light.

Until the mind eventually retires into itself and returns to painting:

and there you hear your name at last at last
as herons come languid across the sky, slow wing ache,
and not think anything uneasy – arsenic, lead, cadmium –
sickness or crime lay in marrow, in blood run, feather, lung,
that you are not inlaid in figure, in ground, in the colors
someone who has taken care of his pigments brushes on.

The skill is in the control of these lines, and the exact observation: ‘herons come languid across the sky’, etc.

Todd Boss brought out his second collection in 2012 and is the co-founder of Motionpoems, a poetry film initiative. His poem, The Ending is the Beginning can be read here: http://harvardreview.fas.harvard.edu/?q=features/poetry/ending-beginning, and relates to Suite No. 3 in C major for solo cello by Bach. The poem speaks for itself – simply, expressively, saying all that’s needed:

It’s lovely and sad, how it
knows itself, knows its own
closing as it opens.

And so on for another sixteen satisfying lines to:

And you know it
when it comes, that final
finale. It comes about
like a hunger, like a thirst,
and it leaves no doubt.
You knew what to listen for
all along, as it turns out.

Deftness of phrasing is even more pleasingly shown by Greg McBride’s That Neatness He Shot, which can be read here:  http://harvardreview.fas.harvard.edu/?q=features/poetry/shot
A Vietnam veteran, Greg writes after thirty years of law practice and edits the Innisfree Poetry Journal. It’s a difficult poem to quote because the 24 lines continue seamlessly, from the first stroke of the iron:

Nine iron percussion: the click
just after the subtle turn of hips,
the shock of turf that lifts,

through the ball’s flight:

a spherical voluptuary
gliding, sliding, as across
a bed of vapor; and now,
suspended, the dimpled
messenger essays
the undulant green below,

to its fall on the green:

much as the approach that brings
us to ourselves once more,
feathering the air
back down to earth.

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