4 Poets in the New Delta Review

4 Poets in the New Delta Review

The New Delta Review is a US literary quarterly that has been published in print form by the Louisiana State University since 1984 and is now online. The Review has published the big names in American and international literature, but the poetry in recent years seems somewhat dull, i.e. imitative or predictable or prosy. Exceptions include the following, which may give readers a flavour of the publication.

Riding the Owl’s Eye is by Anders Carlson-Wee and can be read at: http://ndrmag.org/poetry/2013/12/riding-the-owls-eye/
Anders Carlson-Wee is an MFA candidate in poetry at Vanderbilt University, but was formerly a professional rollerblader and then a graduate in wilderness survival who traveled rough the see the length and breadth of America, from the cornfields of the Midwest, the prairies of the West to the blue-hued mountains of Alaska. Riding the Owl’s Eye is probably autobiographical, and starts with the Casablanca opening:

Out of all the dumpsters that could have been
empty, all the weather that could have bloomed
over the prairie and ruined me, all the cars
that could have sped by without hesitating and left me
on the fog-line nameless forever.
We have the dangers escaped:
The trains
that could have taken my legs. The hobos
that could have pulled a switchblade and opened me
like a flood enfolding the red North Dakota clay.

But then a more serious note: how we respond or don’t respond to what we’ve seen:

The Lord gives us mountains
and we fail to mine out that grandness.
The Lord gives us trains and we waste those distances
transporting coal.
Which is largely our fault:
but I say it is our own throat that grows
the cancer, our own asthma that blackens our breath
to a wheeze. And the truth is, the mile-long train
will always crawl past.
Animals know better.
We must peer out from inside the owl’s eye.
Watch the coal dust cook in the wind eddies.
Watch it linger. Watch it spiral thinly as it bruises
the blue-faded mind of the buffalo sky.
We must be the pupil that swells in the coming darkness.
The cargo worth carrying across the distances.

A simple message but an important one: poetry needs to bear witness.

Atlantis by Benjamin Goldberg has similar geographical theme, but here the geography serves as an extended metaphor for a marriage in trouble. Benjamin Goldberg’s work has appeared in many small presses, and he teaches high school English. The poem can be read here:  http://ndrmag.org/poetry/2013/12/goldberg/ It starts ambiguously:

Is as much an unfaithful man as a lost city.

A loss his wife warned him about:

Even his wife tried to warn him: Now that
you’ve had your little moment with the ocean,

And indeed tried to cope with:

the private eye his wife never hired
settling the yellow lens of its reflection
over the wave her husband would’ve left
her for had it only agreed to carry him
anywhere but ashore.
It’s said when she invited the ocean into her
home, she mixed it an offering of coffee
and something a bit stronger, that the table
was yet another ocean across which
she stared the ocean down.

But of course the sea has its own rituals and need of freedom:

Atlantis bobbed
listlessly between his loves as they took
turns carving maps onto his body.
And how it will don’t know:
The end
is settled with a coin toss. Heads: she listens
from the stairs as he snores into his pillow.
Tails: he’s sunken someplace off the coast
of his back, already a legend for being lost.

Hanna Tawater is an MFA candidate at UC San Diego, where she is writing a thesis on multimodal poetics, which is probably reflected in Squid, which can be read here: http://ndrmag.org/poetry/2013/12/squid-2/ It’s whimsical piece, with disconnected thoughts and observations laid out in bullet fashion across the page. We are told:

A squid’s name is Gertrude
o Squid have four classes: stomper, shooter, scout, and healer
* The first battled Namor
* The second was a gangster
* The third was the leader.
* The fourth presumably boneless.

We are given its taxonomy, but this morphs into a love poem of sorts:

* But you have style.
* I really like your junk, like, the way it outlines next to the zipper.

* I love you so much I would choke.
* I would gag on each one of your arms just to feel your squishy insides,
your suckers down my throat.

To end in very visceral and cephalopod way:

* Your eyes are so large and beautiful like a vertebrate’s.
* I want you to know I would mount all three mortar barrels
while they thrust their depth charges and then rotate 90
degrees for reloading because baby,
* that’s love with three hearts.

Christopher Shipman’s Fright Night with My Grandmother has a similar air of unreality, but is more disturbing. It can be read here: http://ndrmag.org/poetry/2011/06/fright-night-with-my-grandmother/ Christopher Shipman’s work has appeared in many journals and he was a finalist for the 2010 Akron Poetry Prize and the 2010 Copperdome Prize. The opening sets the scene:

My grandmother told me to close my eyes
when the vampire guy revealed his victim’s tits
to a neighbor from his second-story open window

but then said, okay, okay open them
because he was about to bite her neck
and she didn’t want me to miss it.

And it’s that ‘missing it’ which is developed, and the grandmother’s voyeurism:

When crucial plot points pierced her eyes
as if from a pair of fangs
her voice lunged out and grew wings
and flew over to thump me on the ear.

I often caught the mysterious pink circle of a nipple
or the pointed tip of a stake
before it plunged through the heart of a vampire,

Which takes its toll on the narrator:

I started to believe I was the young neighbor,
who sees what he likes and something he shouldn’t
and knows there is nothing in between.

In time the narrator grows up, but the grandmother doesn’t:

When I was older and Fright Night 2 was out,
which had a werewolf in it,
she didn’t bother to tell me to close my eyes
when the vampire guy may or may not
have revealed his victim’s tits
to a neighbor because

 she didn’t like that one as much

A strange piece, with themes the stronger for being only hinted at.

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