4 Poets in Quarterly West

4 Poets in Quarterly West

Quarterly West is a literary journal published by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The journal was founded in 1976 but has been exclusively an online publication from 2011. The website is attractively designed, and the online poems are often refreshingly different.
I start with Saeed Jones’ Scheherazade Sleeps Through the Executions, which be read at: http://quarterlywest.utah.edu/iss_76/iss_76_scheherazadesleepsthroughtheexecutions.html. Saeed Jones has published widely and was a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. The poem is too short to quote much from, but captures attention immediately:

There are so many rooms inside her
& just as many locked doors, but sometimes
when the silence snaps shut, she hears the soft

And that ends the immediately comprehensible section. Scheherazade continues to absorb the falling bodies which are arriving:

inside her, gagged & hooded, but she wakes
a little heavier each morning, a night’s worth
of bullet casings tangled in her hair.

The King joins her in bed, and we are left to wonder what the woman stands for, if not perhaps political assignations or renditions that continue while she (i.e. we) prattles on with fictions. An enigmatic but compelling little piece.

Amanda Auchter has published in many leading US literary magazines and is the founding editor of Pebble Lake Review. Her poem, The Sister Wakes with a Tube in her Throat can be read at: http://quarterlywest.utah.edu/iss_74/iss_74_thesisterwakeswithatubeinherthroat.html

The opening line has one word, the empty space no doubt signifying time lost:
the Christmas tinsel was taken down, after
the Mylar balloons began their slow sag
                            from ceiling to hospital tile, the sister
woke with a tube in her throat.

Then follows more sickbed description, a flashback to the car crash, her lying on the ground, and then her present condition, stable though clearly wondering about the future:
  The air
                           caught in her teeth, bruised
past taste buds and soft palate, the tube
humming its artificial lullaby
through the tonsils and tongue where
her mouth’s red floor opened into the dark.

Rebecca Aronson’s teaches writing, and her first book won the Main-Traveled Press poetry book contest, being published in 2007. Her poem Buried City, like its title, has an air of mystery, and can be read at:

More than that is difficult to say with confidence. The poem opens with:

We were stronger than oxen, raised on sweet
water and the musky flesh of clean-shot

Native Americans? Mesopotamia? We aren’t told, only something about them and their activities. With a warning on hubris:

No one who saw the imprints would know
we were the ones who named the world. Hallowed
the mountain which brought us, yes, but forgot
the hungry dirt that would someday call us back.

Leslie Adrienne Miller’s Phrased by Wolves at:
http://quarterlywest.utah.edu/iss_73/iss_73_phrasedbywolves.html is less hermetic, opening with:

For as long as I can remember, the phrase my mother
has arrived in the gap between thought and speech
when I’m tired,

Examples of such inattention or social confusion are given, though they it or they may be more like:

It’s a door rocking open without agency,
a place where the wall of consciousness breaks
into blankness, and not, as we might expect
subconsciousness, though that is where speech
would go if thought did not snatch it back.

Nor is the mother an enormous help in such situations:

Someday, however,
the tenacious phrase will simply gush, my mother,
my mother, like some warm and shocking
bodily fluid over the tongue’s worn threshold,

But worst of course is not the mother coming unbidden, but.

But what will happen when she doesn’t knock.

All slight pieces but exploring our consciousness in ways that would be difficult in prose.

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