4 Poets in Word Riot

4 Poets in Word Riot

Word Riot is an online literary magazine that features poetry, flash fiction, short stories, non-fiction and excerpts of novels. It was founded in 2002, and was followed a year later by the Word Riot Press, which publishes poetry collections, anthologies and novels.

The website is not particularly attractive, but the contributors are all professionally presented, despite many being young, at college still or attending MFA courses. What an appreciable number of them do achieve in recent issues of Word Riot, however,  is an enviable naturalness of expression: the work has not always great depth or emotional charge, but the voices are fresh, believable and unpretentious.

Melissa Ho (whose Orange Acid and Other Admissions of Guilt can be read at: http://www.wordriot.org/archives/6761) is in fact only sixteen, but the work is strikingly original and difficult to classify exactly. I do not claim to understand it properly, if prose sense is an aim at all, but the poem is in five sections, each a few lines long, except the last, which is just one line. I’ll quote sections 2 and 5, which show the disconnected, surreal but enticing images:
something i can taste.
summer smells like 6:24 a.m., dandelion breath
and cacti-pricked toes. i miss the black carbon
dust and the empty medicine cabinet. sidewalks
are not built of marble.
i want to peel off my skin and find alaska underneath.

That off-beat humour is continued by Alex McElroy’s The Phonebook at http://www.wordriot.org/archives/6786. Alex McElroy has published in small magazines, and is the International Editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. The poem is ‘after John Ashbery’, and has a playful tone that manages to send up a good deal of contemporary life and poetry: our complex but fragile identities:

comes Floyd Ashton, the grease-knuckled mechanic known only for
snipping the brake lines of Eleanor Aszach, formerly Eleanor Ashton,
still Eleanor Ashton, to the Mastercard company and the friends
of the sons who survived her.

John Berryman and Delmore Schwartz:

The bells, for Ms. Aszach, all ring too late said the soggy
Jack Berryman, who, bearded & bellied & bedazzled by
books was bunked off a bridge by a brain beaten bloody
by booze. The Apocrypha tells us he fell yelling Delmore! Delmore!

And so on. Copyright doesn’t allow me to quote more, but we are taken on a razzmatazz and inconsequential literary-and-others  journey to arrive at:

These fake names, scraped from the walls of my brain like mist
wiped from a fogged shower door, to better see my reflection in the
convex mirror that isn’t the back flap of a book jacket)
How about this, Ms. Glück? You give me your fame, and I’ll give you my oblivion.

No Vacancy by Talin Tahajian is at: http://www.wordriot.org/archives/6801 Talin Tahajiian currently serves as a poetry editor for The Adroit Journal, and she plans to study English at Cambridge University in the fall. The poem is a dialogue that tells of a partnership that has come adrift, or more exactly, between two people who are emphasizing different aspects. One says:

You say, look at me, and I say,
this is a house,

And the other remarks that it’s not much of a home they have:

and when you say
that bellboys cannot be counted

Their common life is recounted, and then the drab reality:

                              and you
tell me that you don’t appreciate
waking up to cold mugs of coffee,

And so on, until the first narrator is still

pleading, this is a house.

Simple and effective.

The last poem, I Have All These Skills by Brett Elizabeth Jenkins is even simpler but does exactly what’s needed. It can be read at:

It starts with:

Do you need an assistant?

And then recounts with earnest deadpan humour what he/she can do:

I can count, and tie things
together. I am pretty good with tape and paperclips.

Etc., and will not do:
I don’t do meetings, filing, or basically anything else,
except for what’s on my resume. Tape, paperclips,
Nintendo. That’s about the extent of it.

A little flesh is added to the CV (possibly for a partnership), which then ends:

Unbunking beds doesn’t look too hard. And eavesdropping,
and losing my keys, and mating socks. I can do all that.

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